The British Council has been unique since its inception in 1934. At that time, some European states were manifesting their approach to international relations with the aid of rearmament, marching songs and aggressive declarations about mare nostrum and Lebensraum.
By contrast, British establishment
genius thought that a more desirable way of spreading and strengthening influence would be
through the development of cultural relations – although King George V declared in a rather muscular way that the British Council had been created ‘to show the world what it owes to Great Britain’.
Happily, the first employees of the British Council had more emollient and creative aspirations.
Accordingly, they then set about fulfilling the purpose of the organisation, defined in the founding Charter as ‘promoting abroad a wider appreciation of British culture and civilisation [by] encouraging cultural, educational and other interchanges between the United Kingdom and elsewhere’.