Challenges Facing Historians Looking to Interpret a Source

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Many would agree that WW2 changed the face of history and it was a war that had very different elements to any war fought before. The proceeding discussion illuminates one aspect of the war ,the aid effort during wartime Australia. How can one understand the sentiments and beliefs of the time? How can one form an opinion or draw a conclusion about the aid effort during WW2. To gain an insight and better understanding of that era one turns to the primary and secondary sources available. One would need to understand the distinction between primary and secondary sources before seeking to analyse and interpret the sources. A primary source is a document, book or object that was created during the time that is being analysed. A secondary source may be seen as an interpretation or a discussion about the era under discussion and such sources are removed from the actual event or era under discussion. For this discussion the following 3 primary sources will be deliberated: a) a poster adverting the Red Cross; b) a poster for ACF; and c)poster for a stamp drive. Each source will now be addressed in turn.

Through viewing the first primary source (ACF Poster) , it is impossible just by looking at the source to ascertain the author of this source, however we do know that it was published somewhere between 1939 and 1945. One of the outstanding organisations of World War Two was the Australian Red Cross and upwards of 450,000 Australians were members of the Red Cross during the war. With 95% of members being women, the Red Cross was probably the largest women‘s organisation in Australian history.(footnote-taken from topic notes) It appears that the poster was designed to target a broad and vast group of people, not only for the simplicity in the actually message but that it didn’t specify any conditions to joining the Red Cross. Based on the climate in Australia at the time, the reason behind creating such a source could be that it was to drum up support and members for the Red Cross. What is not clear from just this source it that, is this source asking people to join the Red Cross as volunteers or workers to provide aid or is this a request for membership fees as such and is an indirect message to support the course through donations. The question that one would ask, is that, is it a subtle attempt to collect aid and if yes , then what is the reasoning behind such subtlety? To many this primary source requires more questioning rather than answers when looked at, at face value. It is quite possible that in the context of war time Australia , this poster portrayed a simple message to all Australians, however in today’s context one would question what exactly is this poster representing. In today’s context this source would require more clarification in the message that it is trying to convey.

The second source is again a poster by an unknown artist and the date of its publishing is unclear however we do know that it was published somewhere between 1939 and 1945. A little less subtle, however a clever attempt at drumming up aid for what the audience perceives is the war effort. The clever positioning of images conveys a message of giving and the words are blatant in that it clearly portrays that if the people continue to give aid then only will the Australian Comfort Fund be able to continue its aid to the people. The era that this poster was designed for was one where Australians were disillusioned by the war what one must remember is that by the 1940’s Australians has positioned themselves away from Brittan and forging on with an identity of their own. Even though the premise is to give aid to assist families affected by the war ,there is no mention of the actual war. Rather it is an attempt appeal to the human side of the war.

The third source is also a poster, however as compared to the previous sources provides more information and detail.   This source was published in The Sunday Mail Newspaper on the...
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