Reading History vs. "Making History à la James Montgomery Flagg


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When reading Michael Kammen, In the Past Lane: Historical Perspectives on American Culture (OUP, 1999) I came across this piece of war propaganda by James Montgomery Flagg, "The Navy Needs You" (1917). The unintended irony of the image is that if one did read history one might be less inclined to "make history" by going off to fight in an unnecessary or unjust war.

The gloriously named "James Montgomery Flagg" did several dozen propaganda posters for the US government during WW1. Flagg is best known for his "Uncle Sam Needs You" recruiting poster.


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 If you were a novelist and you gave the name "Flagg" to a super patriot people would laugh at you. This was also the name given to the super patriotic CIA officer in the TV series M*A*S*H and viewers quite rightly laughed at his stupidities.


Another of my favorites is Flagg's "Side by Side - Britannia" (1918) in which he links British and American imperialism - Uncle Sam and Britannia have linked their arms together and the American eagle and the British lion are on guard against the enemies of empire:


[See a discussion of the politics of animal imagery] [See a larger version]

Posted: Wednesday - December 28, 2011 at 02:12 PM