Propaganda & Recruitment. WWI Posters.

17 thoughts on “Propaganda & Recruitment. WWI Posters.”

  1. An interesting series Arran and a reminder of the horrendous tragedy of it all. When the politicians ran out of canon fodder, rather than putting an end to the madness and not content with the millions already dead, they went looking for more recruits. And still it goes on, different wars, different countries.. :-(

  2. Propaganda posters are always interesting. Like yellow journalism. Really cool look at an angle I’ve never seen before. Most of the WWII stuff I’m familiar with is American. Funny how they paint the enemy out to be so evil… When, in fact, they’re really men just like you—even if they *are* “the enemy.”

    Great, informative post! Thanks, Arran!

    1. Hi. Yes, agreed on all points, and its also interesting that the various emotional & psychological tricks and tropes used in all these posters, now seem so incredibly crass, (“have a good scrap & adventure” or “Don’t let the Germans burn your churches”) They appear so naive in fact they can appear almost “innocent” or “sweet” or even “nostalgic” now. But of course the problem is that they worked. Posters like these, (as well as conscription in many cases of course) effectively sent millions of young men off (from all of Europe and Canada, the US, India and everywhere else) to kill each other and die and get maimed, in the most horrific and disgusting ways. So not really so innocent after all. I’m thinking of appending that Wilfred Owen poem to the end of the post. It is so good on all this. His searing poetry far out-speaks anything from my prosaic text.

      1. Yes. The poem is great. And yeah, it’s pretty amazing how sensationalist materials like these posters worked—and work. Mankind en masse is not so smart, after all.

  3. These photos and article remind me of the Romanian Communist propaganda posters, which were basically mandatory all around the country for 50 years! It’s interesting how it took many years for people to realize they are nothing bu posters and that the reality is different, so then they focused on the fact that that is the future we will have because of communism. After 50 years of communist regime however, it seems that the propaganda has worked, as many people believe in those ideals and don’t remember the horrors of the regime, but remember the colorful posters that told you what you should believe.

    1. Hi Iosif, thank you – that is all extremely interesting. It’s fascinating to hear that many people in your home country are nostalgic for the old regime. I’m sure you’re absolutely right that propaganda played a big part too. (we have propaganda in the west as well, of course) It’s a complex and also a delicate subject & I know so little about Romania, but I know from trips to old East Germany that many (especially older people) are nostalgic for government provision there, (school and house, flat, job, health provision, etc..) and, perhaps, even for the simple certainties that authoritarian, highly-centralized state rule brought about. (stills brings even today, in some countries) I mean, unless you are a critic or intellectual or a dissident, if you’re just an average citizen, you don’t have to make so many decisions in such a country, in such a political culture. It’s like another world to the capitalist world, where everything is competition and fighting to thrive or to win, or sometimes, just to keep your head above water and live with any dignity. But i did read that the last dictator in Romania (yes i know his name but can not spell it on this keyboard!) imposed such high exports, and so many cuts and shortages at home 9food shortages? power blackouts?) that i am amazed many people are nostalgic for him today. Human nature, eh?

    1. hi J.G, delighted if it did help. I agree the posters are fascinating. Not just a window into a particular moment in history, but also into a very different culture to our own modern mindset. Having said that, that generational-cultural gap, is probably more pronounced in modern Europe than modern America. I’m not being political with that, there honestly is no political point or sub-text to it. Simply that in general terms, one of the things that always fascinates Europeans about American culture is how many young Americans still clearly respond to a patriotic call to arms. Modern Europeans have been more or less trained out of that way of thinking. The European Union, founded after WWII of course, and by dominated by a Franco-German determination never to have another European War, had a huge effect on our war-weary modern mindset.

  4. What an interesting insight into life of the day. I t didn’t take much to lure young men away from dead-end jobs, or poverty, no jobs at all and no government benefits. Offer them a steady wage to be sent back to mother or sweetheart, a bit of adventure with lads their own age, and off they happily went off without a backward glance. It ought not to be forgotten though that many young lads were conscripts and had little choice but to fight.

    1. yes, it is extraordinary how many young men went, conscript or volunteer, to face the most appalling dangers and horrors. The pre-existing, professional army (called the BEF i the early part of WWI) took the brunt of the early fighting, and was basically wiped out. So then, from 1915-16 it was volunteers, from Britain and Ireland, and indeed further afield, (Australia, NZ, Canada etc)
      Then, only later on in Britain, as the death toll mounted, Conscription was finally introduced – in 1916 in “mainland” Britain, but as i say above, Not in Ireland, because of the acute and highly sensitive political situation here. There were however huge numbers of Irish who volunteered however, up to 200,000. The 10th, 16th and 36th divisions of the army were all basically Irish. About 49,000 died, which I think I am right in saying, is above the average death toll for UK servicemen as whole in WWI.

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