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History Coursework- Propaganda in World War One  Essay

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Q1. How effective were the methods of Propaganda used in the First World War in winning continued support for the war effort?It was the job of the War Propaganda Bureau to use the motivational power of propaganda to positively influence the public opinion about the war.One of the most wide reaching methods used by this organisation was the press. Since there was no easy method of mass communication at this time, apart from the newspapers, the power of the written word became even greater during the war years. Though, after the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) was passed in 1916, the government had the power to censor information that was to be given to the public, which gave them the ability to hide the more dreadful realities of war. The newspapers themselves had a big role to play in this censorship- their cynicism lead to the realisation that war atrocity stories would not sell, so instead they published glamorous stories of the British heroes. This combination of censorship with morale boosting worked very well on the home front; the censored accounts of battle and the portrayal of war life as almost a holiday encouraged men to join up with slogans like,’BRITONS… Join your country’s army!God save the King’This patriotic propaganda was mainly aimed at the population at home. It aimed to boost public morale, but whether it helped to sway neutral individuals into supporting the war is questionable. From another angle, the press only had a limited efficacy; the fact that in the front line trenches the stories of epic fighting were held up to ridicule by troops, showed that not everyone was influenced by the media.Another method in which censorship helped the war effort was that it concealed the embarrassing British failures from the public. The loss of the battleship Audacious off Ireland in 1914, for example, was not reported in Britain in an attempt to maintain public confidence.Pro-war propaganda infiltrated almost every area of life, including films, books, speeches and even poetry. These varied methods all helped to convince the individual that the British cause was a good one. For example, The Old Front Line, a bland account of the Battle of the Somme, sold 20 thousand copies in Britain, which meant that the public hugely underestimated this horrific battle. The film industry also contributed to propaganda on the home front- For The Empire was a massive success, as many as 9 million people are thought to have seen it by the end of 1916. There were also films encouraging women to volunteer for the land-army, and to work in munitions factories etc. Speeches made by leaders in all countries were used as inspirational propaganda- the Times quoted Lloyd George as saying,’the British soldier is a good sportsman… [and] has fought as a good sportsman’.All these methods swaying opinion were widely acknowledged, and on the whole effective in that they were subtle and well disguised.There was already a strong anti-German feeling in Britain by the time war had broken out, and this was strengthened by the stories of German atrocities that regularly filtered into the news. An example of this would be the propaganda coups that came after the sinking, by a German U-Boat, of the British liner the Luisitania whilst on a passage from New York. This was used as propaganda to persuade the USA to join the war, and to convince that the public that the Germans were barbarians as 1,198 civilians died. The more common stories of German barbarianism were mainly aimed at the middle classes to act as a justification to leave their secure lifestyles for the trenches. This propaganda stirred fear and hatred among the population and prepared them for the necessary sacrifices of war. There were posters and slogans issued specifically to dehumanize the enemy-‘Remember Scarborough!…resolve to crush the German Barbarians. ENLIST NOW’.These also appealed to the morals of the reader and played to their sense of patriotism. At the start of the war there were countless recruitment posters doing the same thing, and over half a million men had volunteered by the end of the first month. Slogans like the one below tried to make it seem that it wasn’t only the army who wanted the men to join up:’Women of Britain say GO!’Even if such a huge campaign hadn’t been launched, I believe the same amount of men would have still joined up. This is because there was a very high level of unemployment at the start of the war, and the army paid comparatively high wages. Since the wartime conditions were so overstated, it appealed to the unemployed working class. Another issue that highlighted the inefficacy of the recruitment plan was the introduction of conscription in 1916. The numbers of men volunteering began to dwindle, ironically, at the time the army most needed them. They had not expected such a high percentage of deaths, so had to introduce conscription. Another reason for this introduction was the fact that the volunteer system was damaging Britain’s agriculture and industry. Obviously, the propaganda was only affecting one class of society.Due to the nature of propaganda, one can never be completely sure of how far its success actually spread, and how much it affected the individual. On the surface, the Great War propaganda seemed to fulfil its aim, but taking a closer look the system seems to have been somewhat flawed.Q2. Study Source A. How useful is this source to a historian studying recruitment to the army at the start of the First World War?Source A is an extract from a novel by John Harris, and it talks of a recruitment effort, taking place before the showing of a film in August 1914. In order to establish the utility of this source to a historian, we must consider key issues surrounding the source.Firstly, the fact that the extract is taken from a novel indicates that it is almost certainly a work of fiction and if not, then based upon embroidered truth. Secondly, the novel was published in 1961, over 40 years after the period in which the events are set. But these factors, in my opinion, do not diminish the sources’ utility, as it is clear that the author has fully researched and explored the period because there are a number of accurate historical references within the text. For example, he refers to ‘Kitcheners volunteers’ and ‘the boys of the Bulldog breed’ among other things. I can also back up the sources’ benefit from my own knowledge, as I know that this method of recruitment was actually used at this time in the Great War. The best-remembered example this has to be the case of the Accrington Pals. They are, almost certainly, the most famous of the battalions formed in the early months of the war. They volunteered in response to Kitchener’s call for a volunteer army, and a large group of friends and neighbours from both Accrington and neighbouring towns, enlisted together to form a battalion with a distinctively local identity.I believe that despite the fact that this is a work of fiction, and the discrepancy of time, that this source would genuinely be useful to a historian studying the era. The account given, even though a work of the imagination, rings true as the not only the references, but the descriptions fit the feelings of the public and the events of the time.Q3. ‘The most important aim of wartime propaganda was to encourage hatred of the enemy’. Is there sufficient evidence in Sources A-F to support this interpretation?Propaganda is ‘the manipulation of information to influence public opinion’. This manipulation took many forms at the time of the Great War and was used in an attempt to influence individuals while leading each one to believe that his response was his own decision.Source C is obviously a source that is taking enemy demonisation to its limits. It shows the Kaiser standing over the crumpled heaps of a women and child, holding a smoking gun in his hand. Behind him is a scene of utter devastation, and he stands proud in the centre of it with his chest out and his flag high. Beneath the cartoon is the ironic caption- ‘The triumph of culture’.This cartoon is by the celebrated Great War cartoonist, Bernard Partridge, and was published whilst the war was in its very earliest days in August 1914. The cartoon evidently has the intention of encouraging hatred of the enemy, and exaggerating his ruthlessness. I believe the cartoon is exaggerating the state of affairs, not only for public benefit, but also because on the day that this cartoon was published, the war was still only 20 days old.Anti-German propaganda not only fuelled support for the war, but it also contributed to intolerance on the home front. Other effective strategies for the demonisation of the Germans were the uses of both leaflets and atrocity stories, and these strategies were widely used. The most famous of example of the latter was the story of the German factory, which supposedly made soap from boiled up corpses.Source C is not the only aspect of useful wartime propaganda represented within the sources however. Demonisation of the enemy infact only constituted a small proportion of the propaganda scheme as a whole, since it was mostly aimed at the middle classes. It acted as a justification to leave the comfort of their lifestyle for the harsh reality of war.Both sources A and B are for the promotion and encouragement of Recruitment. Source A is an extract from a novel set in August of 1914. The narrator is talking of the extreme feelings of enthusiasm evoked by the small gestures of 3 cheers for the King, and singing patriotic songs. The public pride was used as the theme for many recruitment efforts. By the middle of September 1914, over 500,000 men had volunteered their services and they formed the basis of Kitchener’s volunteer army. Speeches, leaflets, and especially posters were produced to help the recruitment campaign. There was even a campaign to get women to join the land army, and the nursing corps. These forms of recruitment propaganda were crucial and the 2 sources illustrate this.Source B is an article from a local newspaper, and it is informing a community that one of their young men had performed a ‘particularly gallant act’ on behalf of his country. This article is plays on the pride of the families when a son or brother goes off to war. The locality of this piece of propaganda makes it all the more effective and powerful.Other forms of Propaganda represented in the sources include Patriotism and Censorship. These two varieties of propaganda are closely linked. This is because the morale of the public back home was very important in the Great War, as they needed to feel pride and confidence in the British army. This is where censorship comes in. The soldiers needed the faith of the population back home and so the government protected the public from the more horrific aspects of war through Censorship.Promoting patriotism constituted the greatest part of the propaganda effort, with speeches and films made especially to maintain the public faith and encourage pride. Many posters and newspaper articles were released to persuade people to ‘Be Patriotic’ and to ‘save food’ among other things. Both Sources E and B are promoting patriotism. Source B is on a local level, informing the local parish of a gallant deed performed by a young man from their neighbourhood. On the other hand, Source F is patriotism on a national level; it is an account of the Battle of the Somme published in a national newspaper. It is a very sanitised account of this dreadful battle, and it is giving the population pride in the bravery of their soldiers. The article is not out-rightly lying; it is only leaving out the horrific details and emotions of war.Source F, when cross-referenced with Source E, shows Censorship. Censorship was a vital form of government propaganda, as was discovered at the start of the war. When footage of what life was like for the soldiers on the front line was shown, the public reaction was one of hysteria. The reporter in Source F is saying how his reports ‘do not tell the whole truth’, as the public could not handle the reality and the pain felt by all those who had lost relatives. Another form of Censorship was the ban on film for private cameras. The government decided that no images of the conditions of the western front must reach the people at home.Not all government propaganda was issued to encourage support of the war; some articles and letters were printed by pacifists and religious groups persuading the population to abstain from war. This type of propaganda is shown in Source D, which states the views of the Independent Labour Party, who were a socialist party. They believe that the values of socialism transcend all war, and goes against the fundamentals of socialism. This ‘Manifesto on the War’ was printed on the 11th August 1914, only a matter of days after war was declared. The socialists were making their position very clear.This collection of sources demonstrates the wide range of forms propaganda took during the Great War. Although demonisation of the enemy played an important role in the Propaganda scheme, the information given in the sources does not support the belief that it was the most important. All evidence considered, only one of the sources shows support for this belief.

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