Kitchener Wants You: the man, the poster and the legacy

By Martyn Thatcher and Anthony Quinn

Uniform Press, 2016, £14.99p, 168pp

ISBN-10:1910500364, ISBN-13:978-1910500361

Book Review by Niall Ferguson 

This slim volume is more a sociological history of how posters and the popular press sought to sway public opinion and recruitment into the armed forces before and during the Great War. It uses what is probably the best-known recruiting poster of all time as a fulcrum around which to tell that story. True, there is a somewhat brief biography of Lord Kitchener, but the biography of Alfred Leete, the artist who drew the poster, is almost as long.  

The book include, (albeit small) colour reproductions of the posters that both preceded and followed its central subject, and describes their impact on recruitment between the wars, and during the Second World War, and its lasting impact with offering examples with political cartoons and even Alan Sugar advertising a new series of The Apprentice on the cover of The Radio Times!

The image of Kitchener remains central to the books various themes, and how it was transformed after its first appearance on the cover of London Opinion into the iconic poster, and the original source of Leete’s image - including the fact that Kitchener actually had a divergent squint Leete corrected for his image. Overall an interesting book that sheds light on some peripheral aspects of the Great War, but a quite a high price for what is a fairly slim volume.