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Detail from Maurice Toussaint poster

"Isn't This Worth Fighting For?"
Landscape in the Posters of the First World War

Manchester Metropolitan University & Imperial War Museum 'Posters of Conflict' Project


Unknown - Your Country's Call

Your Country's Call
PST 11768

H. Gray - Thiepval

H. Gray
PST 12805

The First World War was partly a conflict over territory: France and Germany had had a long-running dispute over the border region of Alsace-Lorraine; Italy and Austria-Hungary contested the Alpine regions on their borders; in eastern Europe, Germany and Austria-Hungary competed with Russia for dominance; and overseas, the extensive lands of the British Empire were under threat from Germany's expansionist colonial policy.

As a result, the posters produced by the belligerent nations tended to emphasize the importance of landscape: the “home soil” or “fatherland” came to symbolically represent each nation's values and identity.

In a war where invasion, or the threat of invasion, was constant, it is not surprising that the security of the home soil of each nation was uppermost in the minds of most people. France was partially occupied for the majority of the war, and was most in danger of losing further land, resulting in the production of many posters depicting "le terre sacree" [the sacred soil].

Also, in less industrialized nations, the importance of the rural economy was paramount, and this was reflected in the number of posters with agrarian themes. This was particularly prevalent in posters from France, Austria-Hungary and Italy, which were less industrialized than Britain and Germany. In addition, wartime shortages, and the use of blockades to stop the import of foodstuffs, increased the importance of the land as a source of food.

The emphasis on agrarian life is also perhaps indicative of a nostalgia for “simpler” times, a reaction against the technology of mechanized warfare. Idealised images of the countryside served as a reminder of a more peaceful and "natural" way of life.

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