(London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1916)
Soon after the outbreak of War, the British government discovered that Germany had a Propaganda Agency. Realising what an effect this could have on the War, the British Government assigned the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, David Lloyd George to set up an equivalent. The British War Propaganda Bureau (WPB) was formed, with Charles Masterman appointed as the head of the WPB.
The purpose of the WPB was to create ways to keep people's morale high and to give the impression that Britain was in control of the War. Charles Masterman, who was a successful writer and Liberal MP, decided to gather the thoughts of some of the best British authors to decide what to do. He invited 25 authors who all agreed to keep all activities at the WPB secret. The government asked authors to write pamphlets and books which were, basically, propaganda. They used commercial companies such as Hodder & Stoughton, T.Fisher Unwin, Oxford University Press, Macmillan, and Nelson to publish the material. This was a clever move, because the general public might not have believe articles written by the government, but by having them produced by a commercial publisher it looked like an unbiased view of the situation. Charles Masterman admitted as much, as the following quote from a report for the government from the WPB shows: 'We have endeavoured throughout…our literature…read it without any knowledge of any "Government Bureau" behind it…All our literature, therefore, except definite Government publications, has been issued under personal names or distributed by well-known publishers.'
However some writers and publishers were very much against the idea, as J.M Dent recollects in his book, The Memoirs of JM Dent, 'I cannot say my heart leapt up as I thought of my country's stand for righteousness'. Stanley Unwin records in one of his books The Truth about a Publisher 'So great was the war-time prejudice on the subject that many booksellers refused to stock or handle it'. So even though the published pieces would be helping Britain's cause publishers and writers still showed a degree of character and sense of morals.
During the course of the war 1160 pamphlets were published, many bringing propaganda to a new level. An early pamphlet, Report on Alleged German Outrages, written during 1915, said that the Germans had systematically tortured Belgium civilians. To make the pamphlet more credible, the famous Dutch artist Louis Raemaekers was asked to make some drawings that would create high emotion among the British public.
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World War I Document Archive
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Last Updated: November 2005.