Propaganda and Neutrality: Alternative Battleground and Active Deflection

Marta Garcia Cabrera's picture
Call for Papers
June 24, 2021
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Contemporary History, Cultural History / Studies, Diplomacy and International Relations, Film and Film History, Modern European History / Studies

The University of Kent’s Centre for the History of War, Media and Society is organising an international conference at the Institute of Historical Research in London:



Keynote speaker: Professor Jo Fox, IHR Director


Neutral states have played an important role in internationalhistory. Neutrality has often been a constitutional matter ofprinciple, but for others it has been a political or military necessity.Neutrals have often acted as mediators, safe havens and buffers, orfallen victim to short-cuts in other states' conflicts. Others haveideologically or financially supported one side in a conflict, but havetaken a stance of official non-belligerence – militarily neutral, butideologically committed.Neutrals have also played the role of alternative battlegrounds fornon-military conflicts – through means such as propaganda,rumour-spreading and espionage – either as hosts to proxyengagements between belligerent states; or through belligerentstates applying pressure for neutrals to join their side in a conflict(or at least not join the other side). In the latter case belligerentstates have often targeted both Governments and the widerpopulation. However, neutral states have rarely been totalbystanders in such situations. They have usually had to createpolicies and institutions to actively deflect pressure from thosebelligerent states, such as through censorship restrictions andorganisations to implement those restrictions. Some have evenindulged in propaganda activities of their own to make their case asto why they have remained neutral, and to counteract belligerentstate propaganda.

The Conference and Call for Papers:

The ‘Propaganda and Neutrality’ conference, organised by theUniversity of Kent, and taking place at the Institute of HistoricalResearch in London on Thursday 24 June 2021, plans to exploreissues around the role of propaganda in neutral states.Proposals for papers are welcome from academics and postgraduatestudents who are studying the role of propaganda in neutral states.Topics covered are likely to be around activities in neutral and nonbelligerentstates during times of military conflict – notably the Firstand Second World Wars such as Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium,Portugal, Sweden and Turkey. However, the conference encouragespapers about all aspects of propaganda and neutrality from any timeperiod, primarily from around 1750 onwards, including, but notlimited to, the Cold War and policies of non-alignment. Also ofinterest are studies of propaganda relating to states that have had alonger-term policy of neutrality that have endured both in times ofwar and peace, and which the policy is core to their identity, such asthat of Switzerland, the Republic of Ireland and Costa Rica. Theconference aims to have a good diversity of speakers and subjects.


Relation between propaganda and neutrality

Foreign propaganda policies in neutral nations (machinery,channels, objectives, repercussions,etc.)

Propaganda as instrument forincentive / prevention of belligerence

Response of the neutral nations to international propaganda

Projection and self-representation of a neutral nation

Propaganda and the justification of neutrality

Psychological warfare in neutral countries (black propaganda,rumours, propaganda for subversion,resistance or occupation)

Propaganda andespionage as a weapon ofwar in non belligerentnations.

Channels to control neutral public opinion (radio, cinema, press,publications, rumours,etc.)

Cultural propaganda and neutrality

Public diplomacy and neutrality

National debate and foreign propaganda

Propaganda and censorship in neutral nations.

Instructions for submitting proposals:Proposals should be made up of an abstract of no more than 350 words for a 20 minute paper, and a short biography. All papers and proposals should be given in the English language (with courtesy English translations provided of any propaganda documents used which originate in other languages).The closing date for proposals is: 31 October 2020. The convenors aim to get back to those submitting proposals by 31 December 2020. Submission and contact email:

We look forward to hearing from you!

As everyone will know, the world has been tackling the Covid-19 pandemic for the past few months. Whilst we hope that the situation will have improved considerably, if not be entirely back to normal, by June 2021, were cognise that there is an ongoing risk of continued disruption at the time of the conference and during preparations over the next year. We will continue to monitor the situation, but plan to develop a solution to enable people to join by video link where that might be necessary. We wouldp robably expect any papers delivered over video link to be a little shorter(10-15 mins) compared to those delivered in the room (20 mins).

Contact Info: 

-Edward Corse (main organizer):

Dr. Edward Corse, Honorary Research Fellow at the Centre for the History of War, Media and Society at the University of Kent. He is the
author of A Battle for Neutral Europe: British cultural propaganda in the Second World War (Bloomsbury, 2013).

-Marta García Cabrera:

Marta García Cabrera, PhD student and researcher at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC), studying British propaganda and intelligence in Spain during the First and the Second World War. Alumnus of the University of Kent (2016).