Posters from the First World War held by the British Library
Collection of digital items of Russian, French and English propaganda posters from the First World War. These posters show symbols and slogans of nationhood and patriotism, the use of women as symbols, victims and homemakers and how the fighting nations depicted the enemy.
Among the posters are those representing atrocity propaganda focused on the most violent acts committed by the German and Austro-Hungarian armies, emphasising their barbarity and providing justification for the conflict. The British placed immense reliance therefore on propaganda to justify the war to the people, to help promote recruitment into the armed forces and to convince the population that their sacrifices would be rewarded.
Remarkable is the poster of Lord Kitchener’s heavily mustachioed face and intimidating finger imploring the British population that ‘Your Country Needs YOU’. British recruitment posters changed in tone, from appealing to an individual’s honour to ‘mobilisation by shame’. Savile Lumley’s famous poster of 1915 depicted two young children asking their father about his military prowess after the war: ‘Daddy, what did YOU do in the Great War?’ .
Also featured in this collection are the War Loan posters which were the largest category of posters issued between 1914 and 1918 as the governments appealed to the civilian population to help finance the war. The need to raise money to pay for the war by means of war bonds provided one of the most important patriotic themes for posters, for example: ‘Turn Your Silver into Bullets - at the Post Office’. In France, a similar poster, designed by Jules Abel Faivre in 1915, 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’.