Post-World War II

Information Research Division (IRD)


Aldrich, Richard J. "Putting Culture into the Cold War: The Cultural Relations Department (CRD) and British Covert Information Warfare." Intelligence and National Security 18, no. 2 (Summer 2003): 109-133. Also: In The Cultural Cold War in Western Europe 1945-1960, eds. Giles Scott-Smith and Hans Krabbendam, 109-133. London: Frank Cass, 2003.

By 1945, the Foreign Office's Cultural Relations Department (CRD) "was at the cutting edge of Britain's information Cold War, focused upon the twin issues of culture and organized youth and working closely with MI5 and to a lesser extent the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS)." The formation of the Soviet-organized World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) led to the "launch of the first covertly-run British front organization, the World Assembly of Youth" (WAY). Also in 1948, Britain "set up a proper covert political warfare section, the Information Research Department" (IRD). The British effort suffered continually from a lack of funding; and "[b]y 1955 the International Secretariat of WAY was becoming a largely an American-funded body."

Deery, Phillip. "Covert Propaganda and the Cold War: Britain and Australia, 1948-1955." The Round Table 361 (2001): 607-621.

Defty, Andrew. "'Close and Continuous Liaison': British Anti-Communist Propaganda and Cooperation with the United States, 1950-51." Intelligence and National Security 17, no. 4 (Winter 2002): 100-130.

The author asserts that "the extent of cooperation between Britain and America in the field of anti-Communist propaganda was far greater than has previously been appreciated." The British Foreign Office's Information Research Department (IRD) produced "discreet propagenda" targeted on the free world; the CIA's "mighty Wurlitzer" focused on the Soviet Union and the Iron Curtain countries. Thus, "[i]n many respects British and American approaches to anti-Communist propaganda were complementary."

Fletcher, R. "British Propaganda Since World War II -- A Case Study." Media, Culture and Society 4 (1982): 97-109.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Library and Records Department. Historical Branch. IRD: Origins and Establishment of the Foreign Office Information Research Department, 1946-8. History Notes/LRD Historical Branch, 9. London: FCO Historians, 1995.

Clark comment: This is a 21-page pamphlet. Aldrich, I&NS 11.1: "This publication covers the early origins of IRD.... [M]aterial on co-ordination with the United States and with other British clandestine departments is ... rather thin."

Jenks, John. British Propaganda and News Media in the Cold War. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006.

According to O'Malley, H-Albion, H-Net Reviews, Jan. 2008 [http://www.h-net.org], this "detailed, convincing, and scholarly work" deals with the "British government's handling of domestic and international propaganda in the late 1940s and the 1950s." The author provides "a detailed analysis of the nature, purpose, and range of activities of the Foreign Office's (FO) Information Research Department (IRD).... This book makes a valuable, empirically rich contribution to studies of the media and the state in the United Kingdom."

Lashmar, Paul, and James Oliver. Britain's Secret Propaganda War, 1948-1977. Stroud, UK: Sutton, 1998.

Wilford, I&NS 14.2, notes that this is "a popular narrative history" of the Foreign Office's Information Research Department from its beginning in 1948 to its demise in 1977. The work "has some flaws but more virtues." The authors' "high-calibre research work" is flawed by "patchy and unreliable" citing of sources, and some of their judgments show a "lack of subtlety or nuance." Consequently, the book "needs to treated with some caution."

For Stafford, Journal of Cold War Studies 2.3 (2000), “the breathless and shocked tone that pervades Britain's Secret Propaganda War seems out of place…. The alarmist tone of the book, combined with a plethora of misspellings and factual errors…, casts doubt on the authors' credibility as historians…. Fortunately, there is enough of value and interest in the book to make it worthwhile. This is especially true of what the authors tell us about the IRD's publishing activities…. In sum, parts of this book are very useful and convey much fascinating information. On the whole, however, the book is to be treated with caution.”

Shaw, Journal of Cold War Studies 3.3 (Fall 2001), comments that the authors "cast a discerning eye over the IRD's manipulation of newspapers, magazines, news agencies, and radio stations from the 1940s to the 1970s. Indeed, they tell a fascinating -- if at times overly sensationalist -- story of a unit that was kept secret from the British public during its lifetime." The book "draws impressively on a range of documentary material," but "is marred ... by the numerous inaccurate or missing references, faults compounded by a disconcerting reliance on oral testimony." It also has "numerous typographical mistakes and spelling errors."

Lucas, W. Scott, and C.J. Morris. "A Very British Crusade: The IRD and the Beginning of the Cold War." In British Intelligence, Strategy and the Cold War, 1945-51, ed. R.J. Aldrich, 85-111. London: Routledge, 1992.

Mayhew, Christopher. A War of Words: A Cold War Witness. London: Tauris, 1998.

Shaw, Journal of Cold War Studies 3.3 (Fall 2001), notes that the author "was the driving force behind the establishment of the Information Research Department (IRD) at the British Foreign Office in 1948." Mayhew's "memoir provides useful information on how bodies such as the British Council and its offshoot, the Soviet Relations Committee, used 'friendship' as a political weapon behind the Iron Curtain." Nevertheless, he "adds little of any consequence to the findings hitherto reached by scholars in relation to either the IRD specifically or British Cold War propaganda policy generally."

Risso, Linda. "A Difficult Compromise: British and American Plans for a Common Anti-Communist Propaganda Response in Western Europe, 1948–58." Intelligence and National Security 26, no. 2 & 3 (Apr.-Jun. 2011): 330-354.

From Abstract: This article examines how the British IRD worked with the CIA's International Organizations Division "in shaping the foundation and early activities" of the Western Union and the NATO Information Service in coordinating "the Western response to Soviet and Soviet-inspired propaganda campaigns." It seeks to explain "why, in the early Cold War, the West struggled to produce a coherent and fully coordinated propaganda response to communism."

Shaw, Tony. "The Information Research Department of the Foreign Office and the Korean War, 1950-1953." Journal of Contemporary History 34, no. 2 (1999): 263-281.

Smith, Lyn. "Covert British Propaganda: The Information Research Department, 1947-77." Millennium: Journal of International Studies 9, no. 1 (1980): 67-83.

Vaughan, James R. "'Cloak without Dagger': How the Information Research Department Fought Britain's Cold War in the Middle East, 1948-56." Cold War History 4, no. 3 (Apr. 2004): 56-84.

From Abstract: This article "concludes that although IRD's Middle Eastern operation before the 1956 Suez Crisis must ultimately be regarded as a failure, the frequently employed caricature of IRD as a group of doctrinaire Cold Warriors is misplaced and that, by the eve of the Suez Crisis, IRD had evolved into a flexible instrument of psychological warfare which, in the Middle East, was to be primarily employed against anti-British nationalist movements."

Wark, Wesley K. "Coming in from the Cold: British Propaganda and Red Army Defectors, 1945-1952." International History Review 9, no. 1 (Feb.1987): 48-72.

The author reviews (and praises) the work of the Information Research Department (IRD) in processing Russian defectors.

Wilford, Hugh. "The Information Research Department: Britain's Secret Cold War Weapon Revealed." Review of International Studies 24, no. 3 (Jul. 1998): 353-369.

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