BOOKS AS WEAPONS:
Propaganda, Publishing, and the Battle for Global Markets in the Era of World War II.
By John B. Hench.
Cornell Univ. Press. 333 pp. $35
Books and propaganda, for many Americans, don’t mesh. Books educate. Propaganda lies. But there was a time when the United States had no qualms about using books as “weapons in the war of ideas”—in the phrase made famous by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In Books as Weapons, John B. Hench, a staff member of the American Antiquarian Society for more than three decades, recounts this chapter in America’s efforts to defeat the enemies of democracy during World War II.
In early 1942, the Council on Books in Wartime, a nonprofit corporation established by U.S. publishers, collaborated with the newly created Office of War Information (OWI) to disseminate works by American authors throughout Europe. This large-scale program, Hench writes, was meant to “win the hearts and minds of the people liberated from the Axis powers.” Selected titles ranged from policy treatises such as Carl Becker’s essay on the prospects for postwar reconstruction, How New Will the Better World Be? (1944), to sentimental novels including The Human Comedy (1943), William Saroyan’s tale about a California family during wartime.
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John Brown, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer, teaches a course at Georgetown University on the history of propaganda and U.S. foreign policy and blogs at http://publicdiplomacypressandblogreview.blogspot.com/.more from this author >>
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W.W. Norton. 627 pp. $35 MADE IN AMERICA:
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