Sheffield-British Library Scholarship: A Comparative Analysis of Visual Propaganda in France and Britain during the First World War

Supervisors: Dr Timothy Baycroft (Department of History) and Ms Teresa Vernon (British Library)

The British Library Scholarships arise from the special relationship the University has with the British Library, and support projects that draw significantly on the holdings and expertise of the British Library.

Project description

The aim of this research project is to evaluate and compare visual propaganda in France and Britain during the First World War. It will involve the analysis of a significant and underused source base which will include posters, picture postcards and trench journals. It will aim to assess the differences in the extent to which resources were committed to propaganda, the variations of messages being conveyed, the imagery selected to best convey these messages, and the intended audiences and anticipated benefits to the war effort, including how all of these changed and evolved over the course of the war. It will also allow for an analysis of differences in the political objectives of the two governments as revealed through their propaganda, and the ensuing war cultures as the developed in the two countries. There is further potential to explore the background of wartime image production by using the British Library Collections which examine the Boer or Franco-Prussian wars, to place the First World War material in a longer process of propaganda technique development.

Relevant Library Holdings

The primary basis for the project will be the British Library’s collection of visual material pertaining to the First World War, much of which is uncatalogued. The British Library holds three collections of French posters, postcards and ephemera. The larger collection comprises 325 posters, of which one third are illustrated, with a further 117 illustrated posters, formally part of this collection, currently on long-term loan to the V&A. A key element of this collaborative project will be to research, identify and produce an enhanced catalogue record for this BL collection, possibly with a formal placement at the BL for a short period during the doctoral project. The student will also have the opportunity to engage with a range of audiences throughout this project, which will coincide with the 1914-1918 First World War commemoration.

Newly digitised complementary material can be found in the Europeana Collections 1914-1918 digital collection which includes books, newspapers, trench journals, maps, music sheets, children’s literature, photographs, posters, pamphlets, and propaganda leaflets, and Trench Journals and Unit Magazines of the First World War, an archival resource of over 1, 500 periodicals sourced predominantly from the collections of the British Library and the Imperial War Museum. Other complementary material is held by the Imperial War Museum and in several French collections.

Award details

The scholarship will cover the UK/EU tuition fees, an annual, tax-free maintenance stipend at the standard Research Council rate (£13,863 in 2014-15), and a Research Training Support Grant of £1000 per year. International applicants will need to pay the difference between the UK/EU and Overseas tuition fees.


Applicants should have, or expect to achieve, a Masters degree or equivalent qualification in an appropriate area of study, and a reading knowledge of French is strongly preferred. Awards are open to UK, EU and international applicants.

How to apply

  1. Applicants are advised to contact the lead supervisor (Dr Timothy Baycroft, to discuss their application in the first instance.
  2. Complete an application for admission as a postgraduate student which can be found at
  3. On the application form please state you are applying for this project and briefly outline (in less than 500 words) your reasons for doing so.

Applicants may be asked to attend an interview.

The closing date for applications is Friday 2 May 2014 at 5pm.