World War I Postcards

  • War time postcards form a visual bridge between the military front and the home front. This collection of World War I postcards is no exception to that. The cards were sent by soldiers from the front and by their family and friends from home. In a way the illustrations on the postcards track the morale of the troops and the nation. At the beginning of the war the cards were very positive and cheerful, but as the slaughter of the trenches continued, the postcards became grim and depressing. 

  • However, an important attribute of the cards that transcends the “mirror of the mood” is propaganda. The war effort, “the soldier” and the “glorious homeland” are important features of this propaganda. The war effort is always depicted as successful or at least hopeful. The soldier is depicted as a model of courage, reliability and modesty. In addition the homeland is presented as peaceful, pure and proud. In addition to this “positive” propaganda there is also a “negative” variant where the enemy is depicted as evil, weak and incapable.

  • These postcards also enable us to have a look at the daily lives of ordinary people. They show us what clothing people were wearing, the streetscape of small towns and what people considered funny, romantic or cruel. The postcards take different forms. There are: drawings, cartoons and photographs giving us a unique insight into the world of 1914-1918. 

  • In a way these postcards write the history of the ordinary people during World War I, and in this regard they are invaluable for the field of social history, not only as a visual source but also as a written source. On the back of the cards people tell each other about their lives. Their comments are not always easy to read but where we can they shows us how they experienced the war, how they addressed each other and which topics they thought were worth writing about during war time.