Love, Romance & Sex in First World War Propaganda

Love, Romance & Sex in First World War Propaganda

As part of The Bowes Museum’s HLF funded First World War project, “To Serve King and Country”, a series of four illustrated talks will take place this autumn on subjects as diverse as romance and propaganda, North East trench art, music and musicians of the First World War and how women’s fashion responded to the War.


Join us for the first talk this Sunday, 18th September, at 2.30pm, which considers how romance and love were woven into propaganda to deliver strong emotional messages. 


Love and sexual attraction are among the most powerful human emotions. Like hate, anger, fear and hope, these emotions were mobilised during the First World War by propagandists on all sides. Propagandists used love and the prospect of love to suggest that participation in war increased romantic possibilities: a man in uniform could be assured of the love and respect of a ‘good’ woman who would provide a stable family life upon his return. Such idealistic notions were complimented by the propaganda of sexual desire.


In this talk, Jo Fox uses newspapers, postcards, posters, songs and film to explore the propagandistic currency of love and sex in the First World War, from the emotional pull of the promise of romance, to publicity surrounding dangers of sex on the front lines. She will discuss how propagandists used information emanating from the occupied territories about sexual war crimes to underscore justifications for war, and how the need to protect wives and sweethearts anchored notions of barbarism and civilization so prevalent in wider wartime narratives.


Jo Fox is Professor of Modern and European History in the Department of History at Durham University. She is the UK’s foremost scholar of comparative propaganda. Her publications include Filming Women in the Third Reich (2000), Film Propaganda in Britain and Germany: World War II Cinema (2007), Justifying War: Propaganda, Politics and the Modern Age (ed. with David Welch) (Palgrave, Basingstoke, 2012), and ‘The Propaganda War’ for the Cambridge History of the Second World War (2015). She is Honorary Director of Communications, Fellow and Council member of the Royal Historical Society (RHS) and a National Teaching Fellow. She frequently contributes to television and radio programmes in the UK, Canada, Australia, and the United States. 


Entry is £3.00 for adults, or free with admission to the Museum and for Friends of The Bowes Museum. Further talks take place on 15thOctober, 12th November and 10th December; see the Museum website for details. 

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