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New Scholarship on World War I, 2000–2014: Propaganda & Popular Culture

By Frederic Krome

Propaganda & Popular Culture

When people think of wartime propaganda, the standard image is often of a top-down system of information management and spoon-feeding the masses what the government wants them to hear.  In contrast to this image, some recent studies of British propaganda reveal the impact of voluntary patriotic organizations dedicated to promoting the war effort.  Many of these institutions, such as the League of Empire Loyalists, predated the war and continued their work after its end.  Matthew C. Hendley’s Organized Patriotism and the Crucible of War: Popular Imperialism in Britain, 1914-1932 recounts the efforts of three such organizations.  As with much of the British war efforts during the first two years of the war, a study of propaganda reveals a relatively lax attitude by officials.  David Monger, Patriotism and Propaganda in First World War Britain: The National War Aims Committee and Civilian Morale, considers how the National War Aims Committee, a semiofficial body, did not hit its stride until 1917.  Ironically, the worse news from the battlefield became, the more effective British propaganda was in convincing the public to hold fast to the cause.

For a comparison with British propaganda, David Welch, Germany, Propaganda, and Total War, 1914-1918: The Sins of Omission, does not analyze propaganda policy or specific propaganda campaigns.  He focuses instead on the strains on German society during the war and how the political leadership attempted to control the population through propaganda.  Matthew Stibbe in German Anglophobia and the Great War, 1914-1918 argues that Anglophobia played a major role in German propaganda during the war, and that there was a significant linkage between Anglophobic groups and anti-Semitic ideology that had important consequences in the interwar years.

Works Cited