Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Manship School of Mass Communication

Document Type



This study examines the building and rethinking of German propaganda institutions during World War I. The goal of this dissertation is to illustrate the evolution of German government ideas on propaganda between 1914-1918.

During the war, German military leaders, politicians, and diplomats had ambitions to change, reform and modernize approaches to media governance. They were losing the battle of ideas, they realized early on. And so German officials were desperate to make propaganda fit into the structure of government; they tried to use new media technologies to be more persuasive. Although there was an abundance of ideas, all of their approaches for better publicity and censorship failed. The root causes were Germany’s political structure, the lack of organization, and their messages, which were tone-deaf and not persuasive.

In their struggle to adjust their propaganda efforts, however, the Germans were slowly learning from their mistakes. By 1918, they had drawn their own conclusions of what went wrong. Germany’s propaganda experience in the First World War is exemplary of how governments learned, over time, through countless blunders, and by modeling after their enemies, the lessons of fighting a modern propaganda war.

Building on original research at political and military archives in Germany and the United States (German Federal Archives; Political Archive of the Foreign Office; Prussian Privy State Archives, Hoover Institution Library and Archives; and U.S. National Archives), the results of this study show why the ideas of German propagandists could not win the war.



Committee Chair

Hamilton, John Maxwell



Available for download on Thursday, June 19, 2025