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KS4 History: Advice to Householders (1964)

Use a public information film to consider international relations in the early 1960s

Main image of KS4 History: Advice to Householders (1964)
AuthorRakesh Pathak
TopicInternational relations in the early 1960s
Key Words Cold War; nuclear war; USA; USSR; Khrushchev; Brezhnev
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A series of short public information films designed to be shown on television if nuclear attack seemed imminent.

A useful film for understanding western attitudes towards nuclear conflict in the 1960s and the seriousness with which the Soviet threat was viewed.

This lesson idea uses the film as a way of seeing how the experiences of ordinary British people fitted into the context of the Cold War and how various propaganda techniques were used to prevent a climate of mass hysteria from developing during the era of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The lesson begins with students watching the two extracts and preparing for a discussion on why the film was produced and events which may have increased the fear of nuclear war from the early 1960s onwards. Students then study the two extracts as pieces of propaganda, working in small groups and considering how use of music, the presenter's voice, actors etc, contributes to the overall impact of the film. The lesson concludes with each group feeding back its findings and if appropriate, there can be a class debate on the key questionsm raised by the film and students' analysis of it.

Lesson Objective

To answer the questions:

  1. How close did the world come to nuclear war in the early 1960s?
  2. What is the propaganda message of Advice to Householders?
  3. To what extent does Advice to Householders present a realistic and accurate view of nuclear conflict?


Students watch the two clips in question and then given 5-10 minutes to write down a brief answer to the following questions:

  • Why was Advice to Householders made in the early 1960s and what does the presenter mean by 'the present state of international tension' ? ( this lesson would work best if students have already studied aspects of the Cold War and they can therefore refer to contextual knowledge as possible in their answers to this question eg Cuban Missile Crisis, building of the Berlin War, Hungarian Uprising, U2 Spy Plane Incident etc )
  • What propaganda message is Advice to Householders designed to impart ? ( there is an opportunity to stretch brighter students here by stressing the subtlety of this propaganda and the way in which it conveys some of the dangers of nuclear war but also how it suggests that if basic precautions are taken, civilised life can continue almost intact.)

Main Attraction

Students are divided into small groups and given the task of analysing the ways in which techniques used in the film help convey the message that nuclear war was a grave threat but one which the traditional social order could survive unscathed. In their discussions ( one member of the group can act as a 'scribe' in order to facilitate 'reporting back' to the rest of the class) students should focus on the use of:

  • Introductory music and the mood which it helps to create
  • The tone of voice used by the presenter, the close ups of him, and the fact that he is wearing a Civil Defence uniform
  • The mood of the ordinary people in the film and way that they react to the prospect of nuclear attack
  • The scenes of everyday life which are shown happening in the aftermath of a nuclear attack

End Credits

Each group reports back their findings on the use of propaganda in Advice to Householders and if appropriate, each group can be given one of the bullet points above to concentrate upon, as they report back to the rest of the class.

A final class discussion can then be held, with 5 minutes spent on each of the following questions, or alternatively just one of the questions can be selected and debated in depth:

  • If Advice for Householders was re-made today what differences in style and content might there be? Would the propaganda message still be the same?
  • Does Advice for Householders give a realistic portrayal of how western society might have responded to nuclear conflict. If not, why not?
  • How might a Soviet version of Advice for Householders have differed from its western counterpart?

External Links

Video Clips
1. Nuclear Explosions - The Basic Facts (3:03)
7. Life Under Fallout Conditions (5:26)
Downloadable Teaching Resources

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Advice to Householders (1964)Advice to Householders (1964)

Read more about this film

Thumbnail image of War Game, The (1966)War Game, The (1966)

Read more about this programme

See also