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Aulich, J., 2012.

‘Advertising and the Public in Britain during the First World War’

Output Type:Chapter in a book
Publication:Justifying War. Propaganda, Politics and the Modern Age
Brief Description/Editor(s):David Welch & Jo Fox

The essay argues that the promotion of war aims and the focus on the home front on the consumer as citizen led to the self-recognition in the media of a constituency of people who, until this point in time, had been excluded from any form of public discourse. The involvement of commerce and the advertising trade in the dissemination of government policy and the promotion of consumer products made whole sections of the community visible to themselves in the officially recognized discourses of commerce and government. Advertising and commerce, and propaganda and government are usually perceived to belong to quite separate realms. An examination of their visual manifestations in the print media as advertising for consumer products and as publicity for various government ministries and agencies during the First World War demonstrates shared institutional structures. In a development of research previously published in Seduction or instruction. First World War posters in Britain and Europe, MUP, 2007, pp106-133) the chapter argues that structures found in the world of advertising gave rise to techniques of presentation for justifying war that obscure the distinctions between the state and commerce. The research reveals a democratizing impulse in the cultural representation of otherwise unrecognised sections of society in advance of political enfranchisement. Among the unforeseen consequences of this phenomenon was the enhancement of the appeal of the media to a wider public beyond the politically enfranchised sections of the community. As people recognized themselves in the pictures, so the latent power of the act of self-identification contributed to a framework for the broadening of the democratic base during the interwar period.