Teacher | Student
Originally produced in: Spain
Also available in: en


  1. Propaganda posters. [Image Gallery]
  2. Pamphlets. [Image Gallery]
  3. Cartoons. [Image Gallery]

Curricular level

4º year Compulsory Secondary Education (History): “World War I” (15 years) Spain


World War I involved the biggest military confrontation throughout Human History until that time. The confronted countries tried by all means to justify the armed conflict to their populations, which would suffer the most terrible consequences. In order to achieve this goal massive propaganda was used for the first time. All the countries without any exception got into an advertising campaign aimed at gaining the mass control in their corresponding states , so that the country could be gathered in front of the common enemy and guarantee victory which, otherwise, would practically be impossible.

Propaganda has been used during all wars since ancient times, but the great quantity of media used and the control of the mass it intended to gain, made World War I propaganda so distinctive and singular. Such a control led to use all the means which were available at that time and all the resources the states could reach in order to get their targets. Thus, as an example there was no hesitation to use posters where innocent children encouraged people to buy bonds to contribute to the military effort, or stamps where the navy wished people Merry Christmas. Besides these materials, the different countries also tried to scoff at the enemy by means of cartoons in the newspapers whose aim was to show a grotesque and easy to defeat enemy. To the previously mentioned resources we must add war pamphlets used to undermine the enemy´s morale which went around the trenches in both opposing sides. The enemy´s morale was already very low due to the hard conditions they had to fight in.

In this project three types of materials are presented for the students to compare and to understand that, for the first time in History, advertising played a very important role in the lives of millions of men and women. We intend to make the student comprehend to what point advertising can change the reality´s perception and can manipulate masses when numerous means act in the same sense.

Conceptual Objectives

  • To know the fighting countries in the World War I and the alliances among them.
  • To reflect on the advertising power in contemporary societies.
  • To understand the reasons that led millions of men to join the army voluntarily to go to war.

Methodological Objectives and Skills

  • To compare the posters of the fighting countries to search for differences and similarities.
  • To use the pamphlets to discover the tricks the soldiers at the front were subject to.
  • To analyze the cartoons appeared in the press and see its connections with reality.

Suggestion of Activities

  1. To connect the war shown in the propaganda (cartoons, posters, pamphlets) from the different countries to reality. We should divide the class into so many groups as countries fought in the armed conflict being each group devoted to study a different country.
  2. To do a little personal research project on which states invested more money on propaganda and why they did it.
  3. To debate in the classroom (in groups) why certain extra European states joined the war and what they got in return.
  4. To do research into the role of women in World War I. In order to do this, we should divide the class into groups and assign each group a country on which they will research over a certain period of time. The best projects could be published in the school´s website and in this web page.

Suggestion of Evaluation

Individual and group projects, rewarding the best students with high marks and publishing their projects as a way to acknowledge their efforts. Written tests on the subject.

Further Information and Interdisciplinarity

To link the study of the propaganda in World War I with the topic of advertising in Language and Literature. It can also be linked to Mathematics, calculating the percentages which the different countries set aside in their budgets for advertising in World War I. Perhaps this topic can be taken into account from an artistic point of view in Plastic Arts.