The Ransom Center’s First World War digital collection contains over one hundred posters that illuminate the lived experience of the war from the point of view of its participants and observers worldwide. The First World War was once envisioned to be “the war to end war.” Such naïve optimism was quickly shattered by the experience of civilian and soldier thrust into the shared horror of industrial warfare. The lithographs in English, French, German, and Russian illustrate a wide spectrum of sentiments from military boosterism to appeals for public austerity. The posters document geo-political causes as well as social and economic transformations set in motion by the war. The role of women, new technologies, international aid, wartime economy, and food supply all feature prominently in the First World War Collection.
Triggered by the June 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by a Bosnian-Serb student, open conflict began in July 1914 when Austria-Hungary invaded the Kingdom of Serbia in retaliation. Within weeks, nearly all of the major nation-states of Europe were drawn into a war that lasted four long years and killed ten million men. The collective personal and national trauma inflicted on all who experienced the war, however, remains a potent touchstone that speaks to a contemporary world still embroiled in conflict.
“The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our time.”
—Sir Edward Grey, 1914
Browse all items in this collection.