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Tag: First World War

Preaching to the Converted?: Boys’ and Girls’ Fiction as Propaganda, 1914-18

Written by David Budgen.

Children growing up in the era of the First World War were encouraged to help with the war effort in a number of ways; between 1914 and 1918 they collected conkers and wool from hedgerows, gathered salvage, and worked in war industries and on the land.  Much of their leisure time too would also have been taken up with the war.  In particular, a wealth of fiction – novels and story papers – utilised the war as a setting.  ‘Perhaps,’ argues Niall Ferguson, ‘the grim truth about war propaganda was that it had the greatest influence on the social group which mattered least to the war effort: children’.  This influence can be seen in the aforementioned ways in which children partook in the war effort.  And yet, although children’s books were undoubtedly topical responses to relatively contemporary events, the extent to which these works functioned as propaganda is worthy of some discussion.

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Serial Propaganda: Replicating the Trope of ‘Barbarous’ Germans in British Boys’ Story Papers during the First World War

Written by Thomas Stephens.

British boys’ authors writing during the First World War embraced the conflict as a new arena for their fictional heroes. Stories about the war were at a premium from 1914 onwards, and many authors also took the opportunity to use their publications to mobilise youth to help in the war effort. Those writing about the war for boys got information about the conflict using information from a combination of newspapers, official propaganda, personal knowledge, rumour, and imagination. In 1914 and 1915, a flood of stories focusing on the conflict appeared in boys’ literature. But by 1916, many story papers such as the Boys’ Own Paper, Magnet, and Boys’ Friend returned to primarily running humorous public-school stories or colonial adventures. These topics gave readers an escape from the sombre matter of industrialised warfare. Wartime inflation and loss of staff also made returning to easily reprintable stories a sensible idea. Many novels and some adventure serials, like Chums, continued to feature narratives about the front throughout the conflict.

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When Propaganda (Studies) Began

Written by Stefan Goebel. It was during the First World War that the modern age of propaganda began. Propaganda has, of course, a much longer tradition, but the years 1914-1918 mark a watershed. Propaganda became a central plank of the war effort, pervading public (and private) life. Moreover, it was during this war that the contours of a new academic subject – propaganda studies – began to emerge. Official propaganda grew from being a sideshow…

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