Patriotism and Propaganda in First World War Britain

The National War Aims Committee and Civilian Morale

David Monger

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ISBN: 9781781380130

Publication: April 3, 2014

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The story of propaganda and patriotism in First World War Britain too often focuses on the clichés of Kitchener, ‘over by Christmas’ and the deaths of patriotic young volunteers at the Somme and elsewhere. A common assumption is that familiar forms of patriotism did not survive the war. However, the activities of the National War Aims Committee in 1917-18 suggest that propaganda and patriotism remained vigorous in Britain in the last years of the war. The NWAC, a semi-official Parliamentary organisation responsible for propaganda to counteract civilian war-weariness, produced masses of propaganda material aimed at re-stimulating civilian patriotism and yet remains largely unknown and rarely discussed. This book provides the first detailed study of the NWAC’s activities, propaganda and reception. It demonstrates the significant role played by the NWAC in British society after July 1917, illuminating the local network of agents and committees which conducted its operations and the party political motivations behind these. At the core of the book is a comprehensive analysis of the Committee’s propaganda. NWAC propaganda contained an underlying patriotic narrative which re-presented many familiar pre-war patriotic themes in ways that sought to encompass the experiences of civilians worn down by years of total war. By interpreting propaganda through the purposes it served, rather than the quantity of discussion of particular aspects, the book rejects common and reductive interpretations which depict propaganda as being mainly about the vilification of enemies. Through this analysis, the book makes a wider plea for deeper attention to the purposes behind patriotic language.

Dr David Monger is Lecturer in Modern European History at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.

List of figures and tables List of abbreviations Acknowledgements Introduction Part 1: The National War Aims Committee 1: The development of wartime propaganda and the emergence of the NWAC 2: The NWAC at work 3: Local agency, local work: the role of constituency War Aims Committees Part 2: Patriotism for a purpose: NWAC propaganda 4: Presentational patriotisms 5: Adversaries at home and abroad: the context of negative difference 6: Civilisational principles: Britain and its allies as the guardians of civilisation 7: Patriotisms of duty: sacrifice, obligation and community – the narrative core of NWAC propaganda 8: Promises for the future: the encouragement of aspirations for a better life, nation and world Part 3: The impact of the NWAC 9: ‘A premium on corruption’? Parliamentary, pressure group and national press responses 10: Individual and local reactions to the NWAC Conclusion Appendices Bibliography Index

…the NWAC mattered, and was seen to matter. The same can, and should, be said of this monograph. Monger has written an interesting and original book on an important subject; this work deserves to become required reading not only for students of wartime propaganda, but for anyone interested in the nature of the wartime British state, or in the very idea of “patriotism” in modern Britain.
Matthew Johnson   English Historical Review

Monger has been able to shed important light on a crucial propaganda organisation, existing during the last months of the war when the maintenance of morale had become so important, and successfully presents this in a fashion that would interest anyone concerned with the employment of propaganda in the early part of the 20th century.
William Butler   Reviews in History

... the most radical element in this book is its emphasis on the continuity of national cohesion and consciousness in early 20th-century Britain.

Impressively detailed, this book is a major, original and illuminating contribution to the scholarship of propaganda.
Adrian Gregory  
University of Oxford

Format: Paperback

Size: 234 x 156 mm

310 Pages

ISBN: 9781781380130

Publication: April 3, 2014

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