Postcards from the First World War stand as an important, and often under-appreciated, form of propaganda. In France, they were produced by private companies such as Bergeret and Royet. Because of this, these private companies also participated in the spreading of propaganda. By showing support to troops and to the war effort, they were contributing to the notion that France was, in the right, fighting a ‘just war.’
Propaganda's main purpose was to unify the French people. As soon as the war began, the French government commenced its ‘Sacred Union’ campaign which sought to unite the entire nation behind its soldiers. Each upsurge of pacifism had to be crushed. The pacifist movement that existed on the eve of the war was practically erased. Appealing to nationalism and patriotism was also the path to keep soldiers motivated. In 1914, French society was mainly rural. Soldiers had little interest in the assassination of Franz Ferdinand or other long-term causes of the war. Their primary preoccupation was the next harvest. Propaganda distracted soldiers and prevented them from asking themselves questions about the nature of the conflict. Values of courage, bravery, and honor were praised while pacifism was synonymous with cowardliness. Without a doubt, it also helped to unite soldiers, and boosted morale. Propaganda was a cornerstone of the war effort because soldiers had to endure horrific conditions on the front. Therefore, they had to fight, and probably die, for a superior cause - the nation. This propaganda through postcards embraced the purpose of valorizing these values by appealing to military pride, naval pride, military personalities, and religion.
During the war, France was engaged in a ‘total war’ which meant that every means of production was devoted to the same objective: to win the war. In order to achieve that goal, the entire population needed to be mobilized. Propaganda encouraged enlistment and the raising of war loans. Indeed, civilians could buy war bonds to contribute to the war effort. Because of its length (more than four years), WWI had a tremendous impact on the French economy which already had debts before the conflict. Thus, mobilizing the entire economy and civilians was vital and propaganda appeared as a very efficient method. It also convinced people that the French army was the best and that the German army would soon collapse. When the war started, French people were certain that this war would be short and that France would win a quick victory. Over time, they started to realize that it was not true, but propaganda helped to maintain this sense by glorifying each victory and omitting defeats. Many of the postcards represent troops, tanks, military, and political figures with that purpose in mind.
We see a French soldier standing with his rifle. Behind him, we see a woman who represents all French wives, sisters, and daughters. The soldier is fighting for them, for the nation, and for honor. These values are highly praised.
Translation: I don't have time to listen to my heart which beats for honor