Kill That Eagle


‘A document of Albion’s perfidiousness’ [Text, lower left]

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In the months following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, there were few on the continent or in Britain who could have predicted the immensity of the forthcoming global conflict. In general, the French and German public were supportive of the war and the idea of settling questions left unanswered since the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Austrians were outraged at the offense of the Serbian assassin Gavrilo Princip and excited to exploit the opportunity for more territory in the Balkans. Russia, as the unwritten protector of Slavic and Eastern Orthodox Christians, saw the need to protect Serbia and prevent further Austro-Hungarian encroachment. The English were concerned with maintaining their empire and ensuring an appropriate balance of power on the continent – German aggression, especially in Belgium, had to be stopped. Other belligerents, like Turkey and Italy, were opportunists, hoping to join the winning side at the right moment for the most gain. These broad generalizations provide a glimpse of the competing motivations of the various powers, and hindsight shows us clearly that a protracted conflict was likely, although still not inevitable.

When this map was issued, the audience did not have the benefit of such hindsight. Many thought that the war would be short, decisive, and glorious. Germany had just advanced through Belgium and the Battle of the Frontiers was ongoing. The British Expeditionary Force was once again fighting on the soil of Europe and in conjunction with powerful allies in the form of France and Russia. This cartoonish representation of the various belligerents highlights contemporary English opinion. ‘Business as Usual’ and that the Imperial Eagle of Germany must be killed at all costs.

John Bull, supported by troops from overseas territories, can be seen rolling up his sleeves as he crosses the English channel into a chaotic Europe. France, represented by Marianne and the Gallic rooster, is crouched in a defensive posture against the talons and beak of the Eagle. Belgium, visibly wounded, fights on. In the East, the Cossack hordes gallop forth and the Great Bear of Russia mauls the legs of the Austria-Hungary; the kingdom’s martial ineptitude is reflected by what appears to be a clown costume. Serbia bites his behind while even the ‘sting’ of Montenegro can be felt. A standoff is taking place in the Dardanelles, with Bulgaria’s finger on the trigger and the Ottoman Empire (sitting on a barrel of gunpowder) requiring significant German encouragement to join the fight. Impartial observers in Spain and Scandanavia look on with binoculars.

Taken as a whole, the image is a fantastic representation of the cocky attitudes of the English, and would have reflected the opinions of many in the United Kingdom in the early years of the war. As such, this example was re-issued in Germany shortly after being originally published as an example of ‘reverse’ propaganda. The image remains the same, though the scattered toponyms and captions have been translated, commentary has been added to the bottom, and a bold proclamation at the top exclaims the sheet to be ‘of great collectible value!’ [Von grossen Sammelwert!]

The text at the bottom is particularly telling, as it accentuates the alleged differences between British and German attitudes towards the war. The author is careful to highlight the conflict as ‘Business as Usual’ for the former, while the latter uses their blood to protect the Fatherland. Amusingly, he also notes that the image was “reprinted by a German printer without the express permission of the English.” The overconfidence of the British, it was hoped, would result in their downfall, and this map would be a physical representation of their folly.

The image was originally designed by J.H. Amschewitz and published in London by Geographia, likely in the fall of 1914. This example was republished in Hamburg by Walter Nolting – probably in early 1915. A rare example of pictorial political propagandization with interesting contemporary repairs on the verso.

Map Details

Publication Date: 1915

Author: Walter Nolting

Sheet Width (in): 28.00

Sheet Height (in): 20.50

Condition: B+

Condition Description: Moderate wear visible along former fold lines, with numerous areas of separation repaired with a curious mix of early 20th century linen tape and modern archival material. One evident damp stain in the upper right and scattered wear, small tears, and soiling visible in the margins. The defects have been fortunately confined primarily to the verso of the sheet, which remains bright and retains a vibrant lithographed color.


1 in stock