In World War One, for the first time, whole nations and not merely professional armies were in mortal combat. Propaganda was global, with a clear message. Hate the enemy; our cause is just; support our soldiers; unite with our allies. In this pre-radio and television age, posters were one of the most important means of spreading propaganda. Governments invested heavily in posters that grabbed attention, and some of them became symbols of national resolve.
The need to raise money to pay for the war by selling war bonds (or ‘liberty bonds’ in the US) provided one of the most important patriotic themes for posters. A recurring idea was the portrayal of money (coins and banknotes) as an active force in military engagement: a French poster of 1915 for instance depicted a large gold coin with a Gallic cockerel on it, crushing a German soldier, with the slogan: ‘Deposit your gold for France – Gold fights for victory’.
Such posters had to be dramatic and effective: few people had much money to spare. This Italian poster is another such call to financial action. Featuring a soldier dramatically pointing to the viewer in the same manner as Kitchener’s famous ‘Your country needs you’ poster in Britain, the message of this is ‘Everyone do your duty! War loan subscriptions available at Credito Italiano’.
- Article by:
- Peter Simkins
- The war machine
In 1914 Lord Kitchener introduced voluntary enlistment to expand the British forces. Professor Peter Simkins explains why and how this initiative so successfully recruited large numbers of men at the beginning of World War One.