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15-25 August 1917
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Posters: Enlist!

Posters: Enlist!
Posters – and other propaganda – are so interesting to study. This medium for mass communication had different aims in targeting its audience: sometimes to collect money, to encourage recruitment, or even to give information and orders on a large scale. The First World War is often considered “the first mass propaganda war” with its abundant and creative illustrated colour posters.
For an ordinary person in 1914, visual images were rare. Today’s constant blitz of television, computer and smartphone screens, movies, video games, and billboard advertisements would have been inconceivable then. Fuzzy newspaper photographs and postcards of local attractions might be the extent of images seen from day-to-day. The power of striking poster campaigns was amplified for this reason.
On the blog, we will be looking at posters through two distinct approaches, suggested by Hadley and Pegler in association with the Historial de la Grande Guerre. They can be sorted through their aim (e.g. to collect money for the war efforts) or by the representations they use to reinforce their message (e.g. the use of a frightening “other” or enemy to create fear and disgust.)
Lord-Kitchener.jpgPerhaps the most famous, and trendsetting of enlistment posters, this 1914 poster depicts the British Lord Kitchener. [Image credit]

Today’s post showcases posters with the aim of recruiting soldiers to fight in the war as it developed. Before war began in 1914, France and Germany had obligatory military service in place for men, and recruitment was less of a concern. The French army counted 1,300,000 members, while the German army numbered almost 1,750,000 with nearly the same amount of men in reserve. The British Regular Army, in contrast, had only 710,000 members at that same date, and not many were adequately trained or equipped to go to war.

BeHonestWithYourself1.jpgA 1915 appeal, [Image credit]

HonestWithYourself2.jpgAnother provocative poster from 1915. [Image credit]

Since Canada was the senior Dominion in the British Empire at the time, we were automatically at war upon the British declaration. The creation of the Canadian Canadian Expeditionary Force meant our very own recruiting organization as well, and the colourful posters followed!

EmpireNeedsMen.jpgThe Empire Needs Men, 1915. [Image Credit]
 NewNamesinHistory.pngWill you be there? A Canadian recruitment poster from 1915. [Image credit]

Canadiens-francais.jpgEnrolez-vous! [Image credit]

 This London, Ontario poster conveys a certain urgency! [Image credit]

As Hadley and Pegler write, the Great War introduced a “means of propaganda that was novel, persuasive and, above all, powerful. The Great War was the first media war. The twentieth century had arrived.”

What do you think of these recruitment posters? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram

All images in this post are thanks to Library and Archives Canada and the Imperial War Museum. 
Lots of information from:
Hadley, Frédérick, and Martin Pegler. Posters of the Great War. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword, 2013.
Find their book here.
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