• University of Nottingham
  • British Library

Propaganda and Ideology in Everyday Life

Find out how propaganda is used to instil political ideologies and its impact on our daily lives, with this free online course.

36,001 enrolled on this course

Propaganda and Ideology in Everyday Life

This free online course explores the building blocks of our political views: freedom, community, place, justice and choice.

These words mean different things to different people – such radically different things in fact, that individuals, protest movements and entire states often go to war to assert their understanding of, say, freedom over somebody else’s.

Understand how propaganda works with our everyday beliefs

Over five weeks, we will explore how and why words come to mean such different things, across time and space. We will look at how we come to be political, and how political ideology and propaganda pick up on the words, images and symbols we use to express our own convictions and sentiments.

The course draws on the academic expertise of The University of Nottingham’s Centre for the Study of Ideologies (CSPI), as well as collections showcased in the British Library’s 2013 exhibition, Propaganda: Power and Persuasion.

We will examine examples from different periods and contexts in the 20th and 21st centuries, looking at how propaganda is used to promote causes both “good” and “bad” in the arenas of public health, identity and belonging, and freedom and responsibility.

Share your beliefs with a global community of learners

Throughout the course, you will be able to share your thoughts, beliefs and experiences with other learners, and post images to an online archive, helping to show us what freedom, community or protest might mean to you.

In this way, you can join a global conversation, where people discuss politics across national, social and religious dividing lines, helping all of us appreciate where our differences of views originate.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 seconds “Freedom,” “community,” “justice,” “protest,” “choice.” We all agree that these words matter, and yet they mean very different things to different people. Such radically different things, in fact, that individuals, protest movements, and entire states are sometimes prepared to go to war to resolve their understanding of, say, “freedom” over somebody else’s. In this course, we will explore how and why words come to mean such different things across time and space. But this course is different. It is not just a learning experience. It is a conversation that is all about you. We will introduce you to the latest academic research on how people and communities come to adopt particular values and ideologies.

Skip to 0 minutes and 48 seconds But we want to encourage you to put this knowledge to practical use straight away and to share your thoughts, beliefs, and experiences with other participants. We will be exploring how ideas change, adapt, how they are propagated, and how they are understood, not just in official political texts, but also in images, films, and everyday objects like schoolbooks and even toys. To understand the social life of political ideas, we’ll be drawing on the vast collections of the British Library. The materials we’ll be using come from political parties and governments which try to influence the way we behave and think, or maybe just reinforce existing values. They also come from protest movements, social groups, and commercial organisations.

Skip to 1 minute and 31 seconds Taken together, they provide a window on the ways in which we think and act politically. But they can also remind us that some ideas become so ingrained in our everyday lives that we forget to think of them as political at all. And instead, they’ve become common sense. We will not just be working with the great collections of the British Library here. You, the learners, will be contributing to the archive of materials that we analyse in this course. So we hope you will join us and our friends at the British Library. Take part in the debates about freedom, community, and citizenship. And explore the British Library’s great resources.


  • Week 1


    • Propaganda and Ideology

      Introduction to propaganda and ideology

    • Freedom and Politics

      This activity looks at different conceptions of freedom and its relationship to politics

    • Freedom, Citizenship and the Social Order

      Feminists, socialists, fascists, liberals - all have fought for different concepts of freedom.

    • Picturing Freedom and the Concept of Ideology

      Show us what images represent freedom to you! We also provide inter-disciplinary perspectives on the concept of 'ideology', and how it is used in academic research in History and Politics.

  • Week 2


    • Justice between War and Peace

      How can justice operate in the context of war?

    • Justice, the State and the Individual

      How does ideology affect how states punish those they deem to be criminals?

    • Justice: the View from Below

      What makes some people take risks or commit violence in the struggle against perceived political injustice?

    • Interdisciplinary Perspectives and Picturing Justice and Injustice

      Upload and discuss images! We also hear from Esther Eidinow, a Classicist, who discusses Mythology and Ideology.

  • Week 3

    Belonging and Community

    • Nations and Nationalism

      What is a nation and how is it constructed?

    • Ethnicity and Belonging

      How do people define who belongs to a particular ethnic group and how do they treat those who don't belong to 'their' group? Here we look at examples from Malaysia, India and China.

    • National Identity between the Local and the Global

      What role do the local and the transnational play in defining national belonging?

    • Interdisciplinary Perspectives and Picturing Belonging and Community

      Upload an image that represents community to you! Each week we also ask an expert from a different by related discipline to give their perspective on ideology in everyday life. This week: Media Studies.

  • Week 4

    Belonging and Place

    • Maps and Ideology

      How do maps shape our view of the world?

    • Nature as an Ideological Resource?

      Is nature just 'green stuff', or does it have a place in our ideologies and our politics?

    • Cities, Spatial Design and Place Making

      In this activity we will look at how different regimes have tried to plan cities with particular political intentions, and some counter-cultural strategies to stake out different claims to urban space.

    • Picturing Places of Belonging and Interdisciplinary Perspectives

      Share and discuss learner images of "belonging" to place. We also continue our project of asking experts from different disciplines to give their perspective on ideology in everyday life. This week: Experimental Psychology.

  • Week 5

    Consumerism and Ideology

    • Consuming Ideology

      What role does ideology and power play in what we eat and consume?

    • Consumer Choice and the Politics of Taste

      What influences the choices we make as consumers? How do we form our tastes?

    • Ideology and the Promise of Consumption

      What place has consumption had in grand political visions of different regimes?

    • Picturing Consumerism and Ideology, and Interdisciplinary Perspectives

      Share and discuss learner images of consumerism and ideology. Also, in the final part of our interviews with experts from other disciplines, we talk to a Sociologist about Ideology and group behaviour.

    • Reflecting on Propaganda and Ideology

      In this concluding discussion we return to our opening questions about what is propaganda and what is ideology? How do learners think about these now?

    • Resource Bank

      Here you will find the course reading list, plus a list of the course contributors with links to their personal web pages.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Assess the usefulness of different academic methodologies for understanding ideologies
  • Compare propaganda produced by regimes from across the political spectrum
  • Discuss how political ideals and values travel between different historical periods and cultural contexts
  • Explore how images and spaces reflect and shape ideological assumptions
  • Reflect on the relationship between personal beliefs and political behaviours

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone with an interest in politics, history and propaganda. No previous experience or qualifications are required.

Who will you learn with?

A lead educator on this course, I am Professor of modern history at Nottingham, and specialize on history and photography, and the legacies of National Socialism and genocide.

Head of Contemporary British Publications at the British Library, and leading on “Learning from the Past”. I’m excited to find out what people are studying, and sharing our amazing resources

I am Professor of Political Theory at the University of Nottingham and a Co-Director of the Centre for the Study of Political Ideologies.

I completed my PhD in History at the University of Nottingham in 2019. I am currently employed by UoN as a Research and Knowledge Exchange Associate in the School of Humanuties.

Who developed the course?

The University of Nottingham

The University of Nottingham is committed to providing a truly international education, inspiring students with world-leading research and benefitting communities all around the world.

British Library

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world’s greatest research libraries.

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