The celebrated adventurer and aviator Beryl Markham wrote in her 1942 memoir, “A map says to you, ‘Read me carefully, follow me closely, doubt me not.'” When most people think of maps, they think of a mathematically derived representation of geographic landforms, an accurate and unbiased document set apart from societal belief and biases. Of course, nothing human-made is impervious to its maker’s worldview, but this common assumption that maps are truthful makes cartography a particularly effective mode of propaganda. Propaganda maps—or persuasive maps, as some scholars prefer to call them—took many forms during World War I, from humorous pictorial maps, to indignant illustrations of perceived German greed, to simple monochrome flyers dropped over enemy lines. What they all had in common, however, is that they all sought to elicit an emotional reaction from their readers, and in doing so, to persuade those readers to entertain certain beliefs about the reality of the Great War.
Designed in autumn of 1914 by an unknown Johnson Riddle & Co. employee, "Hark! Hark! The Dogs Do Bark!" populates a map of Europe with illustrations of dogs and other animals, each representing a European country. The map also features a commentary written by a Punch magazine writer, Walter Emanuel, who was well-known in Britain at the time. Emanuel wastes no time in ascribing the cause of the war to the lunacy of Germany, a "Dachshund that is thought to have gone mad." The bug-eyed German canine has whiskers resembling an imperial mustache, wears a spiked helmet, and is being choked by a collar attaching him to an equally overwrought "Austrian Mongrel." The Austrian Mongrel, meanwhile, is being stung by bees representing Serbia and its ally, Montenegro. Opposing the Dachshund are a French Poodle and English Bulldog. The bulldog has a firm bite on the nose of the Dachshund, while shielding a small, injured "Belgian Griffon." Approaching the Dachshund and Austrian Mongrel from the east is Russia, pictured as a steamroller driven by Tsar Nicholas II. In his last paragraph, Emanuel concludes, "Peace has gone to the Dogs for the present--until a satisfactory muzzle has been found for that Dachshund." Intriguingly, this map was copied and released in Germany as an example of British propaganda.
1. Hark! Hark! The Dogs Do Bark!
Johnson Riddle & Co., G. W. Bacon & Co., 1914
The title of this map proclaims that "War is the National Industry of Prussia." The map depicts Germany as a green octopus wearing a Pickelhaube, the traditional spiked helmet that had come to symbolize German militarism. Its tentacles stretch throughout Europe, menacingly wrapped around England, France, Romania, Greece, and Italy. A representation of greed with its ability to entangle eight entities at one time, the octopus was a common theme of propaganda maps during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Some of the earliest "octopus maps" were actually of German origin, including one from 1870 showing Russia as the grasping octopus.
The red areas on this map mark the territory of Prussia, which had forcefully unified Germany after 1871. The solid red shows Prussia's 1715 domain, and the compact red stripes highlight the areas annexed by Prussia between 1715 and 1815. The wide-set stripes show the additional land annexed or occupied by the new German Empire by 1914. To the right, the size of the Prussian military is represented by the size of the soldier portraits, beginning with a tiny image of a soldier for 1715, a somewhat larger image for 1815, and a significantly larger image for 1914. The 1914 soldier wears a Pickelhaube and carries a rifle fitted with a bloody bayonet. A bloody handprint, often included in Allied portrayals of Germans during WWI, stretches across the soldier's chest as a reminder of the violent war crimes committed by German troops in Belgium and France.
2. La Guerre est l'Industrie Nationale del Prusse
Maurice Neumont, 1917
Stanford's Geographical Establishment published this map in London soon after President Wilson's request for a "peace without victory." Produced partially as a critique of Wilson's plan, the map highlights non-German nationalities under the rule of the Central Powers in an attempt to illustrate the tyranny of the "German Alliance" and promote the principle of national self-determination. Underneath the title is a quote from the Allied response to President Wilson's proposal: "The civilised world knows that the aims of the Allies include…the reorganisation of Europe, guaranteed by a stable settlement, based alike upon the principle of nationalities and on the right which all peoples, whether small or great, have to the enjoyment of full security and free economic development." The statement provocatively implies the exclusion of the U.S. from the "civilised world."
The map denotes the ruling nationalities of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire with a solid black fill, while the "subject nationalities," seventeen in all, are represented by bright colors. The sites of targeted settlement by the German "Ansiedelungs Kommission" in Polish Germany are marked with white dots; the practice of allowing Prussian "settlers" to expropriate land in predominantly Polish territory, displacing many Polish locals without their consent, began in 1886, and is included on the map as an example of Germany's tyrannical nature. The black dots on the map represent the Jewish colonies in Palestine, a situation that would become a central world issue over the next several decades.
The statistical information used by the map reveals that, while Germany itself was relatively homogenous, its Allies were much more diverse, with the ruling nationalities comprising less than half of the population. Only 35 percent of the Ottoman Empire were Turks, only 48 percent of Hungary were Magyars, and only 35 percent of Austria were Germans. After the war, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire would be divided into smaller, more ethnically homogeneous countries.
3. Subject Nationalities of the German Alliances
Stanford's Geographical Establishment, 1916/17
This world map attempts to persuade the reader of the danger of the Central Powers by using quotes from German "Leaders" against them. Each area colored red on the map refers to an area stated to be strategically desirable to the German Empire. Together, they comprise an apparent majority of the Earth's landmass, suggesting that "What Germany Wants" is really no less than world domination. Those areas that were not professed desirable by German politicians and thinkers were either excluded from the map's frame, like western North America, or were obscured by the legend, like Siberia. The apparent ratio of red to white is thus increased to emphasize the insidiousness of the threat.
The publisher of this map and the previous (#3) map, Stanford's Geographical Establishment, became the main publisher for the British War Office in 1914. This tactic of using quotes from prominent Germans to highlight the threat to the world was not unique to the British; an American report titled "Conquest and Kultur: Aims of the Germans in Their Own Words" was released by the U.S. "Committee of Public Information" in 1917.
4. What Germany Wants. Her Claims as Set Forth by Leaders of German Thought.
Stanford's Geographical Establishment, 1916
One of the more fascinating enterprises of World War I was the practice of dropping propaganda leaflets over enemy lines from the air. To better execute this effort, the British even invented an unmanned Leaflet Balloon, which could float over enemy trenches and drop the flyers without risking airmen's lives. Almost 50,000 of these leaflet balloons were produced during the war.
This particular map was made by the American Expeditionary Forces and dropped over German trenches, probably in late September or early October of 1918, with the intention of disrupting enemy morale. It compares the front lines of September 12th with the front lines of September 13th, and includes a caption that translates as "The arc [of land], which the Germans had spent four years occupying, was taken in 27 hours by the Americans."
5. [American propaganda map translated into German]
American Expeditionary Forces, 1918