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Recruitment for the British armed forces and civil defences: organising and producing ‘advertising’, 1913-63

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posted on 2023-06-08, 17:56 authored by Brendan John Maartens
The issue of how governments attract men and women to the armed forces has been a principal concern of historians of propaganda since Harold Lasswell first wrote on the subject in the 1920s. Yet while a great deal has been written about propaganda texts – posters, films, newsreels, radio broadcasts, television programmes, and so on – less attention has been paid to the ways in which these texts were produced and their place within the broader context of 20th century British history. Through an analysis of key institutions and individuals, and drawing on a range of primary and secondary source material, this thesis makes a case for a history of recruitment advertising rooted in the experiences and perspectives of its practitioners. Exploring a number of recruitment campaigns waged in Britain between 1913 and 1963, it studies the business of recruitment not through the medium of individual advertisements, but via the organisations, ideologies and discursive practices that constructed them. Following Liz McFall and Anne Cronin, who argue that advertising can be understood only in relation to the particular historical circumstances that give rise to it, and that advertising is at any one point the sum of the discourses that embody and maintain it, it explores how recruitment campaigns were organised, planned and executed at key moments in British history. Crucial to this approach is an analysis of archival records such as memoranda, minutes of meetings, production logs, memoirs and reports. By examining these records discursively, this thesis encourages a shift from textual readings of recruitment advertising to studies of how relevant organisations and individuals defined and understood recruitment practices as promotional devices intended to exhort and persuade. By examining military advertising through six case studies spanning the wartime, interwar and postwar periods, it explores how ideas about promotion shifted from one era to the next.


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