Propaganda

This hook presents a propaganda poster that was used to encourage men from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and India to support the British Empire by enlisting.

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The Empire Needs Men! poster by Arthur Wardle, January 1915, United Kingdom.

The Empire Needs Men! poster by Arthur Wardle, January 1915, United Kingdom. Te Papa Tongarewa. GH016383.

(external link)Context

Propaganda influences the way people think by presenting a carefully selected (or constructed) version of the truth that exploits existing beliefs, asserts authority, appeals to patriotism, and/or evokes fear or humour. Symbols play an important role in propaganda posters because images are powerful transmitters of ideas, often appealing as much to our emotions as to our minds.

This propaganda poster was printed by the New Zealand government in 1915 and distributed throughout the country to encourage men to enlist. In the poster, the lion represents the British Empire and the cubs are Australia, Canada, India, and New Zealand. In 1915, most Pākehā New Zealanders accepted the idea of a parent–child relationship between Britain and its dominions, viewing New Zealand as a “British” country and a loyal member of the British Empire. Many New Zealand men were quick to enlist, joining the 2.5 million men who served in the armies of the Dominions.

A lion was not the only animal symbol used to represent Britain during the First World War; a British bulldog was often used as well. The bulldog might be shown carrying a sausage, an offensive way to refer to Germans, or be seen biting or chasing a caricature of the German Kaiser. These propaganda images both dehumanised the enemy and helped to reinforce a sense of shared national identity.

By exploring propaganda posters, students can develop their understanding of:

  • how language features are used for effect within and across texts (English)
  • the beliefs, attitudes, and practices that reinforce stereotypes and role expectations and the ways in which these shape people’s choices at individual, group, and societal levels (Health and physical education)
  • how ideologies shape society and that individuals and groups respond differently to these beliefs (Social studies).

Possible discussion questions

  • What is the purpose of this poster?
  • Which elements of effective propaganda are evident in this poster? For example, what evidence can you find that the poster exploits existing beliefs, asserts authority, appeals to patriotism, or evokes fear or humour?
  • Whose views or values are reflected in this poster? Whose are not reflected?
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  • Print.
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