Reviewed by Oliver Parken. The notion of the Second World War as a ‘people’s war’ remains an established, and highly contested, tool for understanding the experience and representation of the conflict. Transmitted through wartime propaganda and cultural codes, scholars have tended to assess its workings in the home front context. In the British case, citizens were, after all, drawn into the front-lines of war as targets of enemy bombardment as well as forming the back-bone…
Written by Mario Draper.
Léon Arendt will not be a familiar name to most readers. His role as the Political Director at the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1896 to 1912 was hardly likely to make him a household name beyond Belgium’s borders. Yet, his conceptualisation of these borders and of Belgium’s wider relationship with neutrality – imposed in perpetuity by the Great Powers (Britain, France, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Prussia) in 1839 – marks him out as a singularly important figure in defining the strategic paradigm at the outbreak of the First World War. For here was a man who proposed the controversial view in 1911 that neutrality was but a tool of independence and not an end in itself. In other words, were neutrality to jeopardize continued independence, Belgium was within its rights to reinterpret its duties and forgo its strict adherence to the 1839 Treaty of London.
Written by Rebecca Berens Matzke.
In the Great War, the British government modernised and systematised propaganda for the first time. From the beginning in 1914, it aimed not only at domestic and enemy audiences, but also at the most powerful neutral country: the United States. The Propaganda Bureau, operating secretly from Wellington House, recruited popular British authors to write or compile persuasive information in pamphlets. Their provenance disguised, these pamphlets were then mailed directly to thousands of ‘opinion makers’ in the USA—professionals, political and church leaders, academics, and journalists. They aimed to influence American public opinion toward preserving the nation’s benevolent neutrality and later to recruit the USA to Britain’s cause.