Propaganda in the First World War

Length: 1868 words

Question 1

To a historian studying propaganda Source A and B are both useful because they give different forms of evidence. Source A is an extract from a novel and therefore it is fiction and is written to entertain. Even though it is fiction the extract is useful as it enables us to capture the moment of the time, it gives a unique view on how citizens felt about the war and joining it. It describes how the writer went to the cinema and instead of watching a film he ended up cheering for the country and its allies, and signing the national anthem. This source gives many different aspects of propaganda, one of which is persuasion, propaganda such as this came across in films also, films of battles were created showing the courageous men of war, and how wonderful the war was, trying to influence men to sign up.

Another method used in this extract is fun and excitement; the writer describes how they sang and cheered for their country and allies, which makes the reader feel proud of his/her country. Hatred for the enemy also comes across quietly in the extract, as there is no mention of them as they are blamed for starting the war. This source tells us that there was a general excitement over the war, as many people didn’t realize what was actually happening at the front. The source does not mention deliberate government propaganda, and so could be a useful source as it may have a higher degree of accuracy than source B.

Source B is an article from a local newspaper in Britain, showing how whole families joined the war effort and trying to persuade other people to do so. It is useful to a historian as it is primary source and would have had a large audience at the time; having this large audience it would have influenced many people and their decisions. The image is a positive one and is useful because it shows us how newspapers were censored, in the way that it totally supports the war. At this time the government had control over all media, and the fact that it has been placed in a local newspaper shows the extent of the governments censorship. The picture concentrates on five brothers and one stepbrother who went to war to help defend their country, this idea of war recruitment propaganda also comes across in the caption below the title “Brave Bath lads who have answered the call” which also shows how the article is manipulated to encourage enlistment.

Source B only gives one form of propaganda and therefore it is limited to how useful it is, however it is very real and gives a good view of how propaganda was used, by the use of love for the country and its allies. Source A has many more methods of propaganda, however it was written in 1961 a long time after the war and therefore could not be so accurate. It is also historical fiction and therefore would be partly exaggerated; this is why I conclude that Source B is more useful to a historian studying the use of propaganda for war recruitment in the First World War.

Question 2

Source C is a poster, which was written very early into the war, its subject is hatred towards the enemy and supporting war. Source D is written for the Independent Labour Party and concentrates its view against war. The sources therefore differ in their views of war mainly due to their audience.

Source C is a primary, visual source and is taken from the Punch magazine. This magazine was very popular and had around 100,000 readers at the time, because of its large audience it was targeted and censored by the government. The poster shows the Kaiser in Belgium looking triumphant and standing over and mother and child’s bodies, this comes across very strongly to the reader and gives them an vivid view of what could easily happen to their families. This is the main focus of the poster and its it pro-war, the readers of the magazine at this time would generally believe what they saw in the newspapers and therefore it would easily give them emotions of hatred towards their enemies and give men the urge to sign up. Also women would feel distressed about the poster, because they are the second main focus in it. Women are need in this war also, and this poster is therefore appealing to the support of everyone, not just the men.

Source D is from an article in the newspaper of the Independent Labour Party, and is written by the workers early in the war. These workers were socialists and believed war was imposed on them by capitalists, and this is why is differs so much to source C, because it is anti-war. The workers believed in international togetherness, that they were forced into war, and that they had no hatred against the German workers but with the German leaders who their war was against. They strongly felt that the war was between the “Ruling classes of Europe” and did not involve them, and this is the message they put across in their article.

The attitudes of these two sources differ so much because source C is from the Punch magazine, which is controlled by the government. The governments aim is to make the citizens of Britain feel hatred and disgust for the enemy, in order to aid war effort and to encourage recruitment. They are both written by very different political authors, for different purposes.

Question 3

“The most important aim of wartime propaganda was to encourage hatred for the enemy.” This interpretation was the main aim of wartime propaganda, however it was also used to encourage war recruitment, to increase support and the nations morale, and to prepare people for what may happen in the future.

Source C supports this statement; it shows the Kaiser standing over a family in Belgium with mass destruction around him, this is a powerful image and brings feelings of disgust and hatred of Germans into the mind or British people viewing the poster. The Kaiser is looking triumphant which makes the citizens angry that their side may not be winning the war, or doing so well in it, again this brings feelings of hatred across to the audience of the poster.

Source D also encourages hatred for the enemy but not for the workers of Germany, but the international leaders. The article is written by British workers who are socialists, and it puts across their points that they should have no “quarrels” with the workers of Germany but the that “the quarrel is between the ruling classes of Europe.” They strongly believe that rulers and diplomats have forced the war upon them and they try to encourage hatred for these people. This source however is not government propaganda so even though it encourages hatred of the rulers, it is not put in the newspaper by the government.

Source A however is describing war recruitment, which I think, is the main aim of wartime propaganda. It is an account of what happened in a cinema in 1914, and it describes how that instead of a film British civilians cheered and sang for their country and their allies. There is no mention of the enemy during this extract and therefore it suggests that wartime propaganda was not aimed at hatred for the enemy but for war recruitment and country morale. This source is not actual propaganda; it is historical fiction and isn’t written by the government.

Source E has the same aim as source A one of war recruitment, the extract is censored by the government and so therefore it cannot contain anything negative. The extract creates a great image for the audience, describing how well their country is doing in the war, that everything is fine and the soldiers are having a great time. There is no mention of any deaths and due to these reasons it is intended for war recruitment, giving a wonderful image for potential soldiers. The source is very positive and has no mention of hating the enemy; it is full with good images to boast the morale of the country. It plays on heroism and the adventure of the soldiers.

Source F is written by the same author as source E, however this is a private letter from during the war. This extract has a very different view of the war, as it is not censored by the government. The author contradicts himself and says that his reports “tell the truth” but “not the whole truth”. This source is merely saying how he had to spare the feelings of men and women while writing his reports. He lied in his official reports because it was going to be viewed by a large audience and it was censored by the government to keep the morale of the nation high. It has no task of hatred of the enemy or war recruitment.

Source G is again government propaganda directed towards women telling them to encourage their men to go to war and to write good letters telling them that everything is fine back home. This message from the government is written in the form of a song to hopefully spread the word in a faster more efficient way. It is a song with no negative words in it and its main aim is to encourage recruitment, and therefore it disagrees with the statement that the most important aim of wartime propaganda was hatred of the enemy.

Source H shows a rhyme that was scrawled across a recruitment poster. The recruitment poster is aimed at recruitment and it uses subjects such as king and country to influence it on the men. The rhyme that is pasted across it is reminding the men of Britain, that if they go to war to defend their country what will they be gaining when the war is over. The source does not have any mention of hatred of the enemy.

Source I concentrates on boasting morale of the country, it creates good images of the battles that the soldiers are in, and that they are have a good time in the process. On the poster there is no mention on death of the British, It only creates the image of helpless Germans who cry “kamerad!” when a British soldier shouts surrender. The poster is censored by the government as it is heavily exaggerated and there is no negative talk towards the British.

I disagree with the statement that “The most important aim of wartime propaganda was to encourage hatred of the enemy”. This is because there isn’t sufficient evidence to support this; only one source fully concentrates on this factor. I think the most important aim of wartime propaganda is wartime recruitment; this is because there are many sources to backup this statement, and it’s the factor that would have the biggest influence on the war. Sources A, E and G, all concentrate on recruitment for the war. The sources are also trying to increase support for the war effort, and to prepare the country for any coming events.

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