A thousand words: themes and trends in home front poster propaganda of the second world war
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Poster propaganda is one of the most memorable and enduring legacies of the Second World War. These artistic creations were strongly influenced by social and cultural paradigms as well as corresponding military events. Previous scholarship on propaganda has largely overlooked the role of posters and propaganda efforts on the home front, a gap that this study seeks to fill. The purpose of this study is to compare home front posters produced by the major nations involved in the European theatre and discern any trends or patterns that have a larger significance. Each poster in the sample was arranged chronologically by country. The area of emphasis (recruiting, production, etc.) and appeal (duty, guilt, fear, hate, etc.) for each poster was then recorded and analyzed. The analyses revealed several significant trends and patterns. The most important of these is that posters, regardless of which country produced them, tended to appeal to negative emotions (hate, fear, etc.) when the war was going badly and positive emotions (patriotism, duty, etc.) when the war was being won. Even when the areas of emphasis remained the same, the images, rhetoric and overall emotional tone of posters changed depending on the corresponding war situation. In other words, what a government said was not always as important as how they said it. This trend is equally significant today. Although posters have disappeared as a major propaganda tool, nations still fight wars and still carry out propaganda campaigns, therefore, if relationship between propaganda and the conduct of war presented in this study is applied to modern campaigns it provides the public with information that propaganda intends to keep secret: the truth about the war. Previous scholarship has mentioned this connection between propaganda methods and military operations, but as previously mentioned, these studies neglect both the home front and the poster, choosing to focus on propaganda directed at the enemy. Other patterns, such as the use of humor and religion in posters, are briefly touched on and provide possible areas for future research.
Thomas, Christopher C. (2003). A thousand words: themes and trends in home front poster propaganda of the second world war. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from