World War II
World War II broke out in 1939 and the University’s member institutions and students were forced into exile. Senate House was taken over by the new government department, The Ministry of Information, responsible for subterfuge, censorship and propaganda during the war. The roof was transformed into an observation post for the Royal Observer Corps and the Chairman of the Court of the University, Lord MacMillan, was appointed the first Minister of Information.
While situated in Senate House, the Ministry oversaw campaigns such as the Home Publicity campaign, including the famous ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster. A press room was set up in Beveridge Hall, with reporters from every London newspaper.
The third Minister for Information, Duff Cooper, reported that Bloomsbury suffered severely in the Blitz, in the autumn of 1940, writing
“The Ministry of Information was hit, I think, nine times, but it was a robust modern building and remained upright.”
The University Librarian at the time recorded that the Theses Room in the south wing of the tower was completely destroyed by a bomb that impacted both the sixth and seventh floors of the building.
By 1944, the institutes began to return to Senate House and students were able to take their exams in London again. In August, 1945, Senate House Library was reopened to the public.
Notoriety and acknowledgement
In 1948, George Orwell wrote one of British Literature’s greatest dystopian novels, Nineteen Eighty Four, and used Senate House as the inspiration for the story’s most significant landmark, the Ministry of Truth.
In 1969 the Secretary of State officially acknowledged Senate House as a building of great architectural significance and historical interest, and granted it a Grade II listed heritage site.