The Role Of Propaganda In History I Oxford Open Learning

The Role Of Propaganda In History

Propaganda is powerful tool, especially when used in influencing public perception and opinion through persuasive, biased communications. It is a technique that has been employed by rulers throughout history to elicit an emotional response – as opposed to rational reasoning – which usually acts to serve their own motives. Sometimes these messages are based entirely on fiction, as was the case with the “Great Moon Hoax” of 1835. Propaganda is now prevalent across our websites and social media in the form of ‘fake news’ and is becoming a growing threat to society, eroding trust in our media and creating social polarisation.

Propaganda In Ancient Civilisations

Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt would use propaganda in the form of architecture and monuments to convey their divine power and right to rule. When Ramesses II undertook a military campaign to capture Kadesh, he was unsuccessful and instead settled for a peace treaty. He had, however, taken 20,000 men into battle and expended vast resources, with nothing to show for his efforts. To save face, he built the Ramesseum, a temple containing artwork and inscriptions depicting his overwhelming ‘victory’ and sacking of the city. His false account of the event influenced perceptions of his people and the future generations that followed.


Religious faiths have long used propaganda messaging, often using noble justifications and fear tactics to unite their followers towards a common cause. This was especially effective when used by the Catholic church during the Crusades of the Middle Ages. With the promise of riches from the lands of the East, the Church motivated the movement of its people to rise up against Muslims under the noble notion of ‘freeing’ the sacred lands of Jesus, with Christian soldiers told they would be forgiven of their sins in return for their service.

The Propaganda Of War

Propaganda has been an effective tool in rallying support, raising morale and influencing global opinions during times of conflict. During the second world war, the Nazis employed a powerful propaganda machine as an integral part of their persecution of European Jews, fostering social discrimination and animosity. Propaganda was portrayed through the arts and educational materials, and was often repeated with selective messaging, depicting Germany as the defender of Western culture.

Use In The Modern Age

The rapid advancement of technology has allowed propaganda to evolve into a more sophisticated and dangerous modern form, known as fake news. Political agents can influence public opinion on a much larger and rapid scale, using social media and online channels to spread misinformation. This can lead to threats to national security, have economic consequences and cause decline in our mental health. Social media and digital platforms must now take the responsibility of regulating their sites while carefully allowing a balance in free speech. With technology advancing at a rapid pace, it is important that governments and organisations work together to ensure news algorithms are regulated and the public are educated on the dangers of fake news.


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