During the early 1900s a new era of warfare emerged as governments began to employ all economic, technological and psychological resources available to defeat their enemies. This concept of Total War altered the direction of humanity and governments understanding in their allocation of resources. This essay will examine the relationship between propaganda used during World War I, its effect on the masses and the absolutely essential need for the success of such campaigns in obtaining military victory. While leaflet propaganda used during the war will be the main focus, considerations will be given to other forms to illuminate the necessity of understanding and utilizing the tools of this very powerful weapon.
During World War I, propaganda was widespread in most countries. Propaganda took on many forms and the primary function was to reinforce to the citizens of a nation that war was intrinsically heroic, and conversely to destroy the morale of the enemy.
The actual business of physical injury had added the more subtle process of slaughter of morale, a far more difficult, but none the less effective, method of warfare. The Germans have for a long time preached it. They practiced it from the first, 'frightfulness' being merely the German interpretation of the theory of the destruction of morale. Bernhardi lays as much stress upon it as upon perfection of maneuver. The Allies, perhaps keener students of psychology, substituted persuasion for brutality, and developed a system of military propaganda that has never before been equaled.
Historians generally refer to WWI as the first 'total war'. It was the first conflict in which modern industrialized societies mobilized their complete economic, technological and psychological resources in order to wage war. Unlike earlier wars, which involved relatively small numbers of soldiers on the battlefield, it affected many aspects of the lives of civilian populations and demanded enormous sacrifices and support from them. Mobilization of the home front was crucial to achieving military victory. Some of the main aspects of Total War include conscription of men into the armed services, increased government control of the economy and daily lives of citizens and subsequent loss of personal liberty. Control of the labor force, physical safety and security of civilian populations threatene...
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...ing the Great War and the lessons learned will forever affect economic, technological and psychological futures around the world.
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Bernhardi, Friedrich von. How Germany makes war. New York: G. H. Doran company, c1914.
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