This past week I have been modifying and at times, completely changing the rough draft of my research project. One task I have been given is to uncover more source material concerning civilian morale during World War I in order to boost my footnotes and bolster my overall argument. Fortunately, I quite effortlessly discovered information concerning the British and American home fronts during the Great War.
The British home front proved to be the most interesting for me. After paying closer attention to the dates of newspaper and magazine publications concerning war dogs, I discovered that as the war continued on into 1917 and 1918, more and more canine exploits appeared in popular and widely available media in order to boost morale. In Great Britain, a morale booster was desperately needed. David Monger’s, Patriotism and Propaganda in First World War Britain: The National War Aims Committee and Civilian Morale, provided me with a great deal of information concerning the British war front. According to Monger, morale waned in 1917 and 1918 due to the combination of worker strikes, continual fear of bodily harm (from air raids, for example), and unrest concerning the Russian Revolution of 1917. Thus, depictions of heroic dogs became part of a wider morale boosting campaign.
In terms of the American home front, such harsh war time conditions were not present in the United States as they were overseas. Furthermore, the United States had little overall involvement in World War I, particularly due to its late entry. Nevertheless, depictions of dogs regularly appeared in American newspapers and magazines, even if wired from London or elsewhere in Europe. Ultimately, my main source for information concerning the American home front during World War I is borrowed from the thesis of former Brown University history MA student Alison Laurence and her thesis entitled, “Patriot, Pet, and Pest: America Debates the Dog’s Worth During World War I.” In this thesis, Laurence argues that dogs were anthropomorphized in the depictions of them from the front (that is, they are depicted as possessing human-like qualities). She also discusses overall attitudes of Americans towards dogs during this time period, particularly pertinent to my project. I unearthed Laurence’s thesis last semester while researching for my historiography paper in Historical Methods and I am ecstatic that it has proven more useful for me than I ever would have imagined.
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