The purpose of propaganda was to promote a cause, often political, by the use of biased or untrue information. This technique, by its very nature, was the perfect tool for use during times of war.
In 1942 the Vichy government in France used the propaganda tool in an attempt to foster support for the empire, the control of which had been on the decline since the armistice with Germany in 1940. This came in the form of the "Imperial Fortnight", which took place between 15-31 May.
"...in the depths of her tragic misfortune, France turns to her Empire, looking for comfort and consolation, and most of all for a reason to be proud and to believe in the nation." (Blanchard, 2013, p308)
The primary aims of the Imperial Fortnight were to highlight the important part the colonies would play in the rebuilding of France. Indeed, Marshal Petain illustrates this in a brochure put out by the Secretary General of Information and Propaganda, which emphasized that it was thanks to the colonies that...
"...the wounded homeland was able to regrow." (Blanchard)
Further, the Fortnight urged young people to consider living in the colonies to strengthen industry and to build relations with those outside mother France.
In order to spread the word during the Imperial Fortnight stands were set up in cities illustrating the value of retaining the colonies. In fact, France had used this form of propaganda before in colonial fairs. In these fairs people were actually brought to France from the colonies. They were then placed on display behind roped-off areas performing so-called everyday activities to...
"...create the atmosphere of a "real" native village." (Ginio, 2006, p18)
An Imperial Fortnight propaganda train also toured the country, packed with brochures, images, and other information illustrating what life was like in the wonderful colonies.
While researching this topic I was also surprised and horrified to discover that propaganda stalls were set up in various prisoners of war camps detaining French soldiers!
On 18 May 1942 the Vichy government had a semi-postal stamp issued specifically for the Imperial Fortnight. The 8f 50 surcharge went straight to the Fortnight Commitee. This stamp was designed and engraved by Pierre Gandon.
This stamp design juxtaposes the simple colonial life with the benefits of industry, which is looming on the horizon. The mother and child in the foreground has been beautifully engraved. One almost wonders if the child, gazing at the approaching industry, is afraid for what their future may hold. An interesting stamp despite the blatant propaganda.
Until next time...
Blanchard, P., (2013), Colonial Culture in France since the Revolution, Indiana University Press.
Ginio, R., (2006), French Colonialism Unmasked: The Vichy Years in French West Africa, University of Nebraska Press.