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Open Access Publications from the University of California

You Can Be Sure of Shell: Oil, Empire, and Landscape in Interwar Britain

Published Web Location Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

During the 1930s, Royal Dutch Shell Oil commissioned a group of prominent artists and designers to create posters for a nationwide advertising campaign in Britain. The slogans ran “To Visit Britain’s Landmarks, You Can Be Sure of Shell”; “Everywhere You Go, You Can Be Sure of Shell”; “See Britain First on Shell”, all of which were set against painted backgrounds of rivers, fields, churches, and castles. Through the latter half of the interwar period, these large posters traversed the nation stuck to the sides of the trucks that delivered Shell oil.The broadsheet images acted as peripatetic windows onto the historic buildings, landscapes, and scenic villages of Britain, encouraging motor travel by reinforcing a sentimental connection to the British landscape. Yet in doing so, the series elided the reality of the landscape as a site of ideological conflict. In the decades following World War I, this space had become disturbed by political upheaval and placed at the center of debates over industrial modernization.

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