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7 Heavy-Handed Propaganda Efforts From History

From a new exhibition at the British Library called Propaganda: Power and Persuasion.

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1. Napoleon (1813).

By J. B. Borely, this portrait was designed to inspire loyalty and intimidate critics at a time when the Emperor’s power was declining and France was besieged on all sides. It was originally hung in the Council Hall of Montpellier but less than a year later, with Napoleon defeated, the painting was removed and returned to the artist with the bill unpaid.

British Library

2. "Crush The Germans" poster (1915).

This poster from World War I was designed to encourage donations towards the war effort from the British public. The use of a five shilling piece provided added symbolic impact, as it features the image of St George slaying a dragon.

British Library.


4. Uncle Sam poster (1917).

Over four million copies of this poster were printed between 1917 and 1918, after the United States entered World War I. Because of its enormous and enduring popularity, the image was adapted for use in World War II and has been satirised in anti-war propaganda during the Vietnam War and later conflicts. Uncle Sam is now a cultural icon and instantaneously recognisable as the most enduring representation of the United States in art.

British Library

5. Stalin portrait (1949).

Painted by Irakli Toidze, this portrait is from the book Poetry of Georgia published in 1949. It present the Russian leader exactly as he wanted to be seen: as a cultured, learned scholar.

British Library

6. Chairman Mao portrait (1967).

The painting depicts a young Chairman Mao winning victory in the 1922 miners' strike at Anyuan. It is believed to be the most reproduced painting anywhere in the world, with more than 900 million copies made, and helped to perpetuate the personality cult around the Chinese leader.

British Library

7. Saddam Hussein playing cards (2003).

This deck of cards portraying the prominent members of Saddam Hussein’s regime was circulated to US-led forces during the invasion of Iraq. The cards served a practical purpose but also sent a message about the extent and quality of the Coalition’s intelligence, and its willingness to seek out Iraqi leaders.

British Library

Propaganda: Power and Persuasion at the British Libray runs from 17 May to 17 September.