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BRITISH CULTURE AND THE FIRST WORLD WAR, Robb



BRITISH CULTURE AND THE FIRST WORLD WAR, George Robb, Palgrave, 2002.

Chapter 4, Propaganda and Censorship

p. 121 "no official photographers at the front until 1916, and after that only 16 photographers covered all the theaters of war. [ME: This does not include soldiers' snapshots.] While they produced thousands of images, they revealed little about the nature of modern warfare. Battles per se were difficult to photograph and the enemy was rarely seen. Pictures of soldiers sitting in trenches lacked drama and heroism...Most photos were posed shots of soldiers at rest or play, usually smiling cheerfully for the camera. Other favorite subjects were ruined towns and scenes of civilian distress which highlighted German brutality. Certain subjects were forbidden by the censor, especially badly wounded or dead British soldiers..." Affected by publishing standards as well. "Patriotism and bourgeois standards of decency did not always permit full disclosure."

p. 123 British government engaged D. W. Griffith to film war propaganda. He visited the front but concluded "real war made poor drama." He ended up faking it: "Mock battle scenes were staged on Salisbury Plain, featuring cavalry charges, running infantry, long columns of charging men, and cannons bombarding the enemy" in 1917's Hearts of the World, which included Lillian Gish being menaced by Evil Huns until rescued by her soldier sweetheart.

Mrs. John Bull Prepared (1918) includes male chauvinist character Mr. Smith, who declares, "Woman's place is AT HOME. She is not fit for anything else." Then he's visited by the "Spirit of British Womanhood" who shows him "images of women's war work and forces him to acknowledge his error."

p. 125 "Soldiers...dismissed a great deal of wartime propaganda...."

p. 126 "The home front press and many civilians continued to endorse bellicose propaganda and anti-German sentiments long after most soldiers had lost faith in 'a war to end war'."

Alternative opinions from soldiers home on leave, soldiers' letters (even censored), wartime novels and memoirs.

p. 127 Despite having true information, "few people were either willing or able to process it. It was certainly difficult for civilians to understand things so utterly outside their own experience and so alien to the myths they had cherished since childhood." "...random, unceremonious, mechanized death--was too ghastly to contemplate."

Tags: wwi, wwi research
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