Subject Nationalities of the German Alliance

The Dangerfield Printing Co. Ltd., SUBJECT NATIONALITIES OF THE GERMAN ALLIANCE. London: Stanford’s Geographical Establishment, ca. 1917.
Color lithograph, 28”h x 36 1/4”w at neat line plus margins. Bit of toning wear along folds and some minor spotting, but very good or better.

An imposing First World War Allied propaganda map highlighting the hegemonic nature of the Central Powers and arguing for a post-war reorganization of Europe according to the principle of national self-determination.

The map depicts Europe and the Near East, color-coded to indicate the dominant nationalities in the vast region then controlled by the Central Powers of Germany, Austro-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey. The predominantly German, Magyar, Bulgar and Turk regions—the ethnic heartlands of the Central powers—are (naturally!) shaded black, with subjugated Alsatians red, Jugoslavs and Arabs green, Rumanians light blue, and so on. The map was also issued on a much smaller format, tipped into a four-page pamphlet, whose core argument is summarized in a single paragraph:

“Subtract the colored areas from the black areas on the map, and you are left with four nations—Germans, Magyars, Bulgars, and Turks—who could enter a League of Nations as free and equal members on the same terms as the French, British, Italians, Swiss, Belgians, or Dutch. But add the colored areas, and you see these four nations differentiated from the other peoples of Europe, endowed with a tyrannical ascendancy in a “German Empire,” and “Austro-Hungarian Monarchy,” a “Bulgarian Tsardom” and an “Ottoman Sultanate,” linked together strategically across the national territory of alien subject peoples, and banded in a sinister league of interest, to hold their wrongful possessions and extend them.” (p. 2)

The solution to this state of affairs is stated on the map, which quotes from the Allies’ war aims as articulated to President Wilson in 1916:

“The civilised world knows that the aims of the Allies include—the reorganization of Europe, guaranteed by a stable settlement, based alike upon the principle of nationalities and on the right which all peoples, whether small or great, have to the enjoyment of full security and free economic development.”

The map has many features characteristic of persuasive maps, the most obvious being the use of black to designate the dominant nationalities of the Central Alliance. Less obvious is the failure to address the question of “subject nationalities” subsumed within the borders of the Allied nations, not to mention their many imperial holdings in Africa and Asia. Most subtle of all is the map’s simplistic treatment of nationality, a notoriously messy topic with historical, political, religious, and racial dimensions, all with the potential to yield conflicting answers to the question “Who (or what) are you?”

In any event, after the war the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires were dismantled, while Germany lost territories occupied by Alsatians, Danes and Poles. The Allies were able to hold on to their own “subject nationalities” in Africa and Asia for just a while longer, until the liberation movements of the 1940s, 50s and beyond, and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

The map was one of many First World War propaganda maps issued by the London-based Stanford’s Geographical Establishment.

OCLC 9876563 et al, giving numerous institutional holdings. Persuasive Maps: PJ Mode Collection, #1188.