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Book by NDSU Professor Examines Role of Children in War and Propaganda

A new book titled “Children, War and Propaganda” examines wartime contributions of U.S. children in World War I and World War II. Author Ross Collins, Ph.D., communication professor at North Dakota State University, researched how groups have integrated children into the war experience through propaganda.

Fargo, N.D. – A new book titled “Children, War and Propaganda” examines wartime contributions of U.S. children in World War I and World War II. Author Ross Collins, Ph.D., communication professor at North Dakota State University, researched how groups have integrated children into the war experience through propaganda.

“Modern propaganda in advertising, magazine and other venues helped to draw children into those wars,” notes Collins, who evaluated hundreds of historical images and documents in researching the book. “A variety of authorities participated in the propaganda, in the school, on the playground, at work or at home. They promoted military ideals and activities in hopes these might reduce fear, build character, prepare for service, and even tangibly help the war effort. In doing so, authorities brought war themes to children on a day-to-day basis, a militarization of American childhood.”

As the World Wars changed societies in many ways, Collins notes that they also changed expectations for children during wartime. In war on an immense, worldwide scale, everyone worked, including children of all ages.

In a slide show accompanying the book, images of wartime in children’s magazines such as The American Boy, or ads for toys, bikes and fishing poles, carried messages of children’s role in helping the war effort.

No effort was too small, according to Collins. Children in World War I were asked to collect fruit pits and nutshells that were burned into charcoal for gas mask filters. Children in World War II were asked to collect milkweed pods. The milkweed silk served as substitute kapok in life preservers.

In this historical perspective, Collins examines how patriotism was used as a method to build what was perceived as the ideal child who was skilled, physically fit, civic minded, with an enhanced moral character. The book discusses what children were told, what they were expected to do, and how they responded.

Collins notes that in the beginning of the 21st century, war was not only fought for children, but by children. He raises the provocative thought that such a progression seemed logical after it became acceptable to recruit children for wartime needs in World War I and World War II.

An excerpt of the book is available at http://www.childrenwarandpropaganda.com/excerpt.html

Ross F. Collins, Children, War and Propaganda. New York: Peter Lang, 2011. ISBN 978-1-4331-0382-7. The book is part of the Mediating American History series, aimed at scholars and students and edited by David A. Copeland. The series includes a diverse range of works dealing with the mass media and its relationship to society.

Collins earned his doctorate in history from the University of Cambridge, England. He has published three books and many articles on the history of World War I, France and the American frontier.

More information at http://www.childrenwarandpropaganda.com/


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