Whatever else may be said or written about the way in which the British government came to employ the weapon of propaganda during the First World War, it was undeniably an impressive exercise in improvisation. Having entered the conflict with nothing that could even remotely be described as an official propaganda department, Britain finished the conflict with the most highly developed organisation of all the belligerents for influencing public opinion. If reputation was anything to go by, it was certainly the most effective. However, the process which culminated in the establishment of a full Ministry of Information in February 1918 was neither an agreeable nor a painless one for most members of the British governing class. The path was littered with innumerable obstacles such as widespread official antipathy, inter-departmental rivalry and, at times, bitter acrimony and squabbling. So many sacred cows concerning the traditional relationship between government and governed and the rules of conduct in foreign policy were slaughtered along the way that it was almost impossible to keep count of them. Even so, by the end of the war, Britain had developed the classic model on which other governments were subsequently to base their own propaganda machinery.
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M. L. Sanders
Philip M. Taylor
- Macmillan Education UK
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