World War I in Caricature

Introduction (adapted from Beginning in 1870, maps that featured regional stereotypes, animals, symbolic imagery, and mythical and historic figures associated with particular countries became a popular way to express prejudices, humour and political commentary. The rise of the serio-comic map caricature genre reached its peak of popularity at the beginning of World War One. The humorous propaganda maps stirred nationalistic fervour, mocked and belittled enemies and even served as a tool for students to learn their geography. In many of the maps below you will see that the more distorted or grotesque depictions are saved for the least favoured nations while the home side is of course rendered as normal or heroic. The style declined in popularity as the war dragged on and film and posters became the more dominant media of propaganda.

Let's start with a modern version, the Leviathon Map, created by Keith Thompson in 2009:

Leviathon Map

To look at each part of the map close up and compare it with the details below provided by artist Keith Thompson, go to the Leviathon Map at and click on each nation.

Map Explanation in the words of the artist, Keith Thompson:


A great website from the University at Amsterdam has located many historical maps with charicatures of WWI -;med=1;c=carto;start=411;type=boolean;view=thumbfull;q1=carto;rgn1=carto_all;corig=carto;size=20

Map #1 - The Insane Asylum, 1915

Insane Asylum Map, 115


Map #2 - European Revue - Kill that Eagle, 1914

Kill that Eagle Map 1914


Map #3 - Humorous Map of Europe, 1914

Humorous Map of Europe, 1914


Map #4 - "Hark, Hark, the dogs do Bark", 1914

Hark, Hark the dogs do Bark World Map, 1914


Map #5 - Satirical Map of Europe in the World War, 1914

Satirical Map of Europe in the World War, 1914


Map #6 - Map of Europe in the Year 1914

Map of Europe in 1914


Map #7 - Summer Review of Europe, 1915

Map of SUmmer Review of Europe 1915


Map #8 - Compact Overview of European Spring, 1915

Compace Overview of European Spring Map, 1915


Interpretations (Taken verbatim from

  1. The Insane Asylum by Louis Raemaekers; Amsterdam, Senefelder [pub.] 1915. Louis Raemaekers (1869-1956) was one of the most famous cartoonist/caricaturists of WWI. He crossed the border from Holland into Belgium to witness first-hand the atrocities of the advancing German army. He subsequently chronicled the brutality of theses forces in his cartoons which drew the wrath of the Germans. They forced the Dutch authorities to put the illustrator on trial for jeopardising the neutrality of the Netherlands (acquitted). A reward was offered by the Germans for Raemaekers' arrest and he escaped to Britain where he continued to skewer the German army in his drawings. He produced a thousand cartoons during the war and gained world wide acclaim from their syndication.
  2. European Revue - Kill That Eagle by J. Amschewitz; London, [Pub. by "Geographica"] 1914. An identical map (but with more text) was published in Germany in 1914: "Of great collecting value! European revue. Kill that eagle. [..] This satirical map of Europe is 'a document proving the perfidy of Albion'. Whilst German assets and blood fight for the fatherland, England regards the war merely as business by saying sneeringly: 'Business as usual' [..]. The map reproduces the English original exactly. The few words are transposed into German for better understanding.
  3. Humorous Map of Europe by K. Lehmann-Dumont [Leutert & Schneidewind, Dresden] 1914. The German Michel (ie. Michael, used like Johnny in "Johnny Rebel" to mean a straight-shooting fellow) has put on the war helmet over his cap and stretches and expands at full strength, already has the Frenchman by the throat and duly beats the hide of the Russian bear. The Imperial Nobility "lets its bees out of the German hive in surprising numbers against the enemy." Austria-Hungary fights cunningly against Russia and Serbia and kicks Montenegro in the back. With enthusiasm and unity, all its peoples go after the Russian bogeyman. France in retreat calls to England for help, its Turkos ask for pardon, while the Gallic rooster crows about victories according to the recipe from 1870/71. Russia with an "Angel of Peace" cockade gruesomely opens its maw to swallow Germany and Austria whole, swings the Vodka bottle and the whip of revolution, while the German "insects" probe his hollow tooth and knock out his poisonous fang. The Russian bear, eager for the German beehive, is driven off by the bees, while the Pole sticks it to him, and Finland calls for a liberator. England, having caused Egypt to declare war as well, makes its first acquaintance with the gauntlet (lit.: armored fist) while standing on its bags of money. The Indian snake gives its bulldog breathing difficulties, and Ireland tries to sever the twisted cord. Belgium, whose people shows itself to be a poisonous toad, has already been skewered on the German fixing pin in order to be incorporated into the German collection. Serbia, which ignited the world war with its murder-bomb, is hunched over caught by both ears by the Austrian double-eagle. Montenegro. The fat Nikita foolishly fights against Germany and Austria-Hungary and jubilantly receives Russian rubles for his effort. Italy, bound by the Triple Alliance, waits in his boot for the moment to intervene, armed and provided with sardines. Spain. King Alfonse counts his war chest, his family is against unnecessary expenses, while the knight Don Quixote already raises his lance. Portugal leans comfortably against Spain while reading the war reports. Holland is impolitely interrupted during breakfast as a stray bomb lands in his cup of cocoa. Denmark peacefully makes butter deliveries to German, the bayonet point of 1864 has been made safe. Norway, as a friend and brother of Germans, applauds us. Sweden watches developments in Russia closely and in arms. Switzerland watches the world conflagration in all comfort and is already an asylum for homeless Russian grand dukes. Rumania energetically forges its sword. Bulgaria. Ferdinand busily washes his saber, still bloody from the Balkan War. Greece, with its conquered bit of Turkey, cleverly considers its next action. Albania. The "Commission" persists in waiting in quiet prayer. Turkey. The sultan, wounded in the Balkan War, is recovering on his sickbed, but is not averse to giving Russia a light, which would cause the south-Russian powder keg to explode. Japan is dragged into the European theater of war by England and grimly bares his predator's teeth to Germany.
  4. "Hark, Hark, the dogs do Bark" by Walter Emanuel [London, G.W. Bacon & Co.] 1914. "The Dogs of War are loose in Europe, and a nice noise they are making! It was started by a Dachshund that is thought to have gone made -- though there was so much method in his madness that this is doubtful. [NOTE FOR THE IGNORANT: The German for Dog is Hund. The English for German is Hun. Dachshund means badger-dog -- and he is sometime more badgered than he likes.] Mated with the Dachshund, for better or for worse, was an Austrian Mongrel. By the fine unwritten law of Dogdom big dogs never attack little dogs. There are, however, scallywags in every community, and, egged on by the Dachshund for private ends, the Mongrel started bullying a little Servian. And the fat was in the fire, for the little Servian had a great big friend in the form of a Russian Bear, and he stood up for his pal. And that was what the Dachshund wanted. He hoped that a big row would ensue, and in the confusion he intended to steal a bone or two that he had his eye on for some time. He got what he wanted -- and a little more. For the Russian Bear had friends too. There was a very game little Belgian Griffon, and there was a great big French Poodle, a smart dandified fellow, and there was a Bulldog. Rather a sleepy chap this last one, and the Dachshund despised him because he was not always yapping and snaring. But the Bulldog has a habit of sleeping with one eye open, and, when he is roused, he grips and won't let go.

The Dachshund started by attacking the Belgian Griffon, as being the smallest, and mauled the poor creature cruelly, but was quite unable to kill her. And he was mistaken as to the others. He found that the dandified Poodle could fight, and that the Bulldog had not lost the knack of not lettinggo, and that Russia, after all, was a Rusher, and soon the Bear idea made the Dachshund tremble. And even the little Servian gave the Austrian Mongrel some nasty bites, and so did a neighbour of his named Monty. The Dachshund now began to look round for friends, but they seemed strangely scarce. He had relied on an Italian Greyhound, a thoroughbred, named Italia, but Italia dissembled her love in the strangest way, and asserted that War was a luxury which she could not afford just now. All the same Italia loaded her gun, and who knows but what it may go off and whom it may go off and, whom it may hit -- for accidents will happen in the best regulated families.

The Dachshund, to his annoyance, found only one friend, and that was a dog of Constantinople. The Dogs of Constantinople are quite well known for being fond of offal. Meanwhile the rest of the European Happy Family looked on, and who shall say how the row will spread? There's the Greek with his knife ready to take a slice of Turkey; there are the Balkans determined not to be baulked of their own little ambtions; there's the Spaniard fond of Bull fighting so long as he is not a John Bull; there's the Portugee just spoiling for a scrap; there's the Swiss suffering from cold feet; there's the Dutchman, who keeps smiling with difficulty -- still some nice meaty bones may come his way, and in any event he may be relied upon to play the game and not to be a Double Dutchman.

And, up North, the Norwegian, the Swede, and the great Dane all have their eyes well skinned. All this, and more, may be seen depicted above. Search well and you may find many things. But not Peace. Peace has gone to the Dogs for the present -- until a satisfactory muzzle has been found for that Dachshund. Meanwhile the Dachshund's heart bleeds for Belgium -- and his nose for Great Britain."

5. Satirical Map of Europe in the World War by E Zimmerman [Hamburg, W. Nolting], 1914. The Russian bear sprays insect repellant on the Russians and holds out his empty wallet while roaring "hunger." Finland, chained to Russia, tries to cut itself free. The Russian is under fire from Austria and Germany. His (chamber)pot is full of victories. His uniform shows a tear in East Prussia and Lithuania. The Austrian duly scratches the Serbs. Rumania is at the ready. Bulgaria is still wounded from the Balkan War. The Turk awakes, he looks at his harem woman. Norway and Sweden are neutral, Denmark supplies butter. Italy has both feet in one boot and remains neutral. The German pushes Belgium out of the way with the elbow and is at Franzi's head. Bordeaux becomes an asylum for the homeless. The victories of the English and French are false, like the snakes that proclaim them. The Englishman will also soon know what 42ers are, etc. etc.

6. Map of Europe in the Year 1914 by W Trier [Berlin] 1914. England hides its fleet under the skirt of home, the dog Ireland is at its back. King Oskar of Sweden looks "intently" at Russia. France bravely retreats, while Spain devotes itself to sweet "idleness." Belgium - already has! German and Austria-Hungary strike solid German blows on all sides. Good "will" prevails in Switzerland. |(blacked out)[Italy is loyal until death or victory(?)]| Sicily - volcanic soil, but otherwise quite quiet. Montenegro - a pack of lice. Serbia - a pack of swine! The King of Derazzo. Albania - abandons its people. Greece and Turkey are eager to devour one another. Ferdinand of Bulgaria would also like to have a share. Russia wants to swallow up everything, but will not succeed.

7. Summer Review of Europe, 1915 by Lucas Grafe [Hamburg], 1915.

8. Compact Overview of European Spring, 1915 by Lucas Grafe [Hamburg], 1915.