Posters as Primary Source Documents: Analysing a Twentieth-Century Public Health Poster
MetadataShow full item record
This case study will demonstrate how to approach a poster as a historical source and how to understand what it tells us about the past. Posters are powerful and evocative documents that combine striking images and often hard-hitting words in order to seduce, inform, and persuade their viewers to take the desired action. While they are meant to work at a glance and generate an instant reaction in the viewer, what you will learn in this study is that a careful process of description followed by analysis and historical contextualisation can reveal surprising layers of meaning in a poster. Their clever arrangement of visual symbolism and verbal invocations, their emotional aspects, and their calls to action make them a unique mode of communication and persuasion. The poster analysed in this study, ‘The Next to Go – Fight Tuberculosis!’, exemplifies these features while demonstrating that it has both local (American) and global (universal) characteristics. While different poster traditions developed in different time periods and cultures throughout the long twentieth century, increased cultural globalisation almost universally enabled their successful deployment by governments, organisations, and individual actors across the world. Understanding how posters work within these specific contexts and traditions and what kind of evidence they offer to a historian will increase your confidence in using them as primary sources.
Place of Publication
Recommended, similar items
The following license files are associated with this item: