Tallents, Stephen, 1884-1958

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1884-10-20
Death 1958-09-11

Biographical notes:

Stephen George Tallents was born on 20 October 1884, eldest son of George William Tallents, a barrister. He was educated at Harrow School, Balliol College, Oxford and Grenoble. He began his career as a civil servant at the Marine Department of the Board of Trade in 1909 before being transferred to assist Sir William [later Lord] Beveridge and Sir Hubert Llewellyn Smith in establishing labour exchanges. He served in the Irish Guards in 1914-1915, and was badly wounded. Following his recovery he worked first in the Ministry of Munitions, then in the Ministry of Food, where in 1918 he was appointed Principal Assistant Secretary and a member of the Food Council at the time when rations were first being introduced. In 1919 he was appointed the Chief British Delegate for Relief and Supply of Poland, and then British Commissioner for the Baltic Provinces, where he had some success in helping to restore order. He returned to Britain in 1920 to become Private Secretary to Viscount Fitz-Alan, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, at a critical period in Anglo-Irish history, and was then Imperial Secretary for Northern Ireland, 1922-1926. He was briefly Secretary to the Cabinet Committee dealing with the General Strike. In 1926 Leopold Amery, Secretary of State for the Colonies, chose Tallents to be Secretary of the Empire Marketing Board (Amery was the first Chairman), apparently because of his reputation for being an imaginative, yet effective, civil servant. The Empire Marketing Board (EMB) was established in May 1926 to develop and market food and goods produced in the Empire and to promote the idea of the Empire. It had three principal activities: support of scientific research, promotion of economic analysis, and publicity. Research took up a significant proportion of the EMB's work and budget; it assisted 126 agricultural and medical research projects during its life. It issued numerous Intelligence Notes, pamphlets and surveys, made links with buyers and produced analyses of markets to help producers. However, it was Tallents' interest in selling the idea of Empire that formed the rest of his career. The EMB organised press and poster campaigns, exhibitions, shopping weeks, Empire shops, lectures and radio talks. Most famous was the EMB film unit led by John Grierson, reputed to be the creator of the documentary film. Following the demise of the EMB in September 1933 Tallents was appointed Public Relations Officer for the General Post Office (on whose Publicity Committee he had served since 1931). His work there included development of a Post Office film unit under Grierson and brought him the Cup of the Publicity Club of London - then the advertising world's highest honour - in 1935, a rare achievement for a government official. He then moved to the BBC as a Controller (Public Relations, 1935-1940; Overseas Services, 1940-1941). He later served as Public Relations Officer to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, 1943-1946. In the 1940s Tallents also wrote a history of the EMB, `Empire Experiment', which was never published. Stephen Tallents was knighted in 1932. He was the President (1947-1949 and 1953) and Fellow of the Institute of Public Relations. Following his retirement from public service he was involved in a company producing architectural models. He died on 11 September 1958. His publications included The Projection of England , a pamphlet published in 1932 in which he called for a "school of national projection" that would present England to the world, Post Office Publicity (1935) and Man and Boy (1943), an autobiographical work.

From the guide to the TALLENTS, Sir Stephen George (1884-1958), 1925-1957, (Institute of Commonwealth Studies)

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