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World war one propaganda posters

Updated on August 28, 2013

The First World War was a brutal war that ran from 1914 to 1918 and cost an estimated 9 million lives. It was called the “Great War” because of its scale and its impact on the world. The causes of the war are still unclear; we know that it was triggered by the assignation of Archduke Franz Ferdinand the heir to the Austrian throne. He was killed by a Yugoslav nationalist which in turn triggered a conflict between the German empire and the Yugoslavs. Due to various political alliances that were in place at the time other countries quickly became embroiled in the war resulting in a full scale world conflict within a very short period of time. The First World War was also noteworthy because it was the first large conflict which used heavy artillery, advancements in weaponry around the turn of the 20th century meant that weapons were used that could kill a large number of men with a single blow. Furthermore it was the first large scale conflicts in which planes were used to fight. Trenches were used on both sides to hold positions and the inhumane conditions in these trenches are still remembered today.

World War 1 recruitment posters

Like in many other wars around that time propaganda posters were used to recruit soldiers and to win the hearts and minds of the people. During World War 1 all sides were in desperate need of men to man the trenches on the front line. Therefore a lot of effort was put into the recruitment of soldiers, recruitment posters were placed in towns and villages to appeal to young men and women to sign up and become part of the war effort. These posters appealed to the soldiers by asking them “Have you signed up” or by asking them to help their friends or relatives on the front line. This was common in all countries that were involved in the conflict. This website has pictures of and information about First World War recruitment posters.

War bonds in the First World War

Governments also encouraged people to buy war bonds to help finance the war effort. War bonds were issued by the governments of France, Germany, the UK and Canada to allow them to borrow money from other countries. These proved a very successful method of raising finances and were used in later conflicts by all sides. These war bond propaganda posters often depicted the men in horrendous conditions on the front line and asked the people to “help them win” or as one famous poster said “Put strength in the final blow”. War bond posters were placed anywhere civilians and have survived the war and now act as poignant reminder of the times.

Propaganda posters were used in numerous other conflicts in the early 20th century including the Spanish civil war and the Second World War. These posters were used together with other communication methods such as radio and newspaper to create clever propaganda campaigns that spread messages that the often uneducated people of the time often accepted as being fact. This serves to remind us that not everything we hear from our governments and the media can be accepted as being fact and that what we see in media and advertising must not be taken as fact.


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    • profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from No fixed abode

      Thanks for the comment and for pointing out the typo. I agree, I think our grandchildren will look back on what we watch today with a completely different mindset.

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 

      6 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Nice article. Propaganda posters seem kind of manipulative to our "modern" senses-- but we are subject to all kinds of propaganda in many forms of media now-a-days. I wonder what our grandchildren will make of the stuff we see on TV and "news" programs.


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