National loans during the 1914-1918 war

National loans during the 1914-1918 war

  • Credit Lyonnais. Subscribe to 4e national loan.

  • Subscribe to the Liberation Loan and the victory is ours.

    MALHERBE William (1884 - 1951)

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Title: Credit Lyonnais. Subscribe to 4e national loan.

Author :

Creation date : 1918

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 120 - Width 80

Storage location: Franco-American Museum of the Château de Blérancourt (Blérancourt) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot / All rights reserved

Picture reference: 05-518629 / Dsb25 / 15

Credit Lyonnais. Subscribe to 4e national loan.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot / All rights reserved

To close

Title: Subscribe to the Liberation Loan and the victory is ours.

Author : MALHERBE William (1884 - 1951)

Creation date : 1918

Date shown: 1918

Dimensions: Height 120 - Width 80

Technique and other indications: Lithography.

Storage location: Army Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Emile Cambier - All rights reserved

Picture reference: 07-531110 / 2001.32.6

Subscribe to the Liberation Loan and the victory is ours.

© Paris - Army Museum, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Emile Cambier - All rights reserved

Publication date: May 2011

Historical context

Financial mobilization from the rear

During the First World War, French savings were put to contribution through annual national loans (November 1915, October 1916, 1917 and 1918). But this issue coexists with another, that of the mobilization of society as a whole.

By urging the populations to subscribe to loans, or to National Defense bonds, the public authorities intend to maintain the involvement of the French in the war, from a perspective very similar to that which governs the organization of various Days (of the Poilu , of the 75, of the Allies…). To do this, the state resorts to various means of propaganda, such as the press, conferences, speeches and posters.

The two documents presented here fall into this category: they are commissioned works intended for display, for example in bank branches where the loan could be taken out. "Draftsmen, engravers, painters, caricaturists competed in their imagination to compose the posters intended to stimulate patriotism and generosity" (Jean-Jacques Becker and Serge Berstein, Victory and frustrations, p. 83.).

Image Analysis

Warriors and symbols

The poster Subscribe to 4e national loan, anonymous, depicts a naked French warrior in a helmet, armed with a sword. His resolute and combative posture harks back to the imagery of ancient heroes, a choice accentuated by the blue-white-red fabric he holds with one hand and by the typography of the slogan. The allegory of France in combat borrows from the mythological imagination: like a contemporary Hercules, the French soldier indeed fights against an immense eagle, whose massive body and hooked talons underscore its ferocity. The eagle, emblem of the German Empire, symbolizes the enemy. The peril incurred by France is evoked by the beak of the animal, hanging on the right side (eastern France) of the tricolor fabric. The position of the soldier's sword, ready to pierce the eagle, nevertheless suggests a happy outcome.

The poster Subscribe to the Liberation Loan and the Victory is Ours was drawn by artist William Malherbe. We do not find here his post-impressionist style, which he leaves aside for a very figurative art - certainly more suited to the constraints of the propaganda poster. Its composition combines several symbols relating to "Victory". The call for subscriptions is indeed supported by four interlocking elements: a fighter in uniform, enthusiastic and determined, manly wears Marianne who, herself, waves a tricolor. The valiant soldier is the support of the Republic and the Nation. The last element of the scene, he is in return rewarded with a laurel wreath, the prerogative of the glorious victors.

Interpretation

Feeding the unanimist myth through propaganda

These two documents have one essential point in common, that of highlighting the full extent of the merits of the combatants in order to put pressure on the civilian populations for the success of the national loan. Civilians are confronted with the privileged situation which is theirs far from the front. How not to subscribe when others face enemy armies and ensure the protection of the national community?

Taken as such, these documents may suggest that a powerful and continuous patriotic impulse characterized French society during the First World War. This is partly true, and the frame of reference employed here of course refers to certain representations of contemporaries. But things are also a little more prosaic, since National Defense loans are also advantageous investments for the many savers targeted by these posters. This introduces ambiguity into the motivations: as Jean-Baptiste Duroselle writes, "earning money under the guise of patriotism suited the atmosphere of Union sacrée very well" Jean-Baptiste Duroselle, The Great French War, p. 159). As for the soldiers, whose daily life did not resemble the scenes proposed here, they were often quite reluctant or hostile towards such operations, as evidenced by this letter, seized by postal control, that a mobilized du 264e Infantry Regiment wrote to his wife: "If I told you that they have the nerve to ask the soldiers to subscribe for the continuation of the war and have them killed. They will never have [sic] a cent. And I defend you, and especially your mother, that she does not [sic] this stupidity of subscribing ”(Jean Nicot, The Poilus have the floor. Letters from the front, 1917-1918, p. 163.)

  • allegory
  • Germany
  • tricolour flag
  • national loans
  • War of 14-18
  • patriotism
  • hairy
  • silver
  • League of Nations (League of Nations)

Bibliography

Jean-Jacques BECKER and Serge BERSTEIN, Victory and frustrations, 1914-1929, Paris, Le Seuil, 1990.

Jean-Baptiste DUROSELLE, The Great French War, Paris, Perrin, 1998.

Laurent GERVEREAU, "Image propaganda in France, 1914-1918.

Themes and modes of representation ”in Laurent GERVEREAU and Christophe PROCHASSON, Images of 1917, Nanterre, B.D.I.C., 1987.

André LOEZ, The great war, Paris, La Découverte, 2010.

Jean NICOT, The Poilus have the floor.

Letters from the front, 1917-1918, Brussels, Complex, 2003.

Henri TRUCHY, France's war finances, Paris, P.U.F., 1926.

To cite this article

François BOULOC, "National loans during the war of 1914-1918"


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