Wars of Empire in Cartoons

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Overview

At the beginning of the Victorian era it seemed that the sun would never set on the vast British Empire which spanned the globe. However, the Pax Britannica was not all that it seemed and the forces of Her Imperial Majesty were frequently called upon to fend of aggressor nations and quell rebellions in Britain's many colonies.

In an age before computers, television, radio and the cinema the impact of cartoons and caricature was considerable, especially when the only sources of ...

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Overview

At the beginning of the Victorian era it seemed that the sun would never set on the vast British Empire which spanned the globe. However, the Pax Britannica was not all that it seemed and the forces of Her Imperial Majesty were frequently called upon to fend of aggressor nations and quell rebellions in Britain's many colonies.

In an age before computers, television, radio and the cinema the impact of cartoons and caricature was considerable, especially when the only sources of information were posters, newspapers and books. To a news-hungry public, anxious about world affairs, it was the cartoon, with its immediacy and universal accessibility—even to the barely literate—that could speak the message mere words could never convey.

During the Crimean War it was John Leech and his colleagues at Punch who drew their own satirical version of events. And who could take Tsar Nicholas of Russia, Paul Kruger of the Transvaal or the Mad Mahdi of the Sudan at all seriously when the artists of Fun, Judy, Moonshine, Vanity Fair and others cocked a snook at all they held dear? However, Britain's enemies also had a wealth of talent laboring to counteract imperial propaganda and there were frequent, often vicious, attacks on Queen Victoria and her generals, admirals and politicians in French and German satirical magazines such as Simplicissimus, Le Grelot and Lustiger Blatter.

Wars of Empire in Cartoons is divided into chapters covering the main conflicts of the second half of the 19th century year-by-year. Each chapter is prefaced with a concise introduction that provides a historical framework for the cartoons of that year. Altogether some 300 drawings from both sides of eachconflict have been skillfully blended to produce a unique visual history of the wars of the British Empire.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781902304403
  • Publisher: Grub Street
  • Publication date: 7/19/2008
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 9.41 (w) x 12.24 (h) x 0.67 (d)

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  • Posted November 16, 2008

    19th-century political cartoons on England's colonial Empire

    In this latest of Bryant's several works on cartoons and satirical illustrations on British history, Winston Churchill's comment that cartoons are a "good way to learn history" is evidenced. The cartoons are what Americans know as political or editorial cartoons found in most newspapers. In more than 300 cartoons, the racism, imperialism, misogyny, conceits, British political figures, and different perspectives on domestic and international affairs as related to Britain's worldwide Empire are on display usually with biting labels and captions. The British can be wicked with this sort of business; even more so than the French or Americans whose cartoons, though often no holds barred, generally keep a note of humaneness or humor. For example, in American and French cartoons, the individuals are usually caricatured so they look humorous. Whereas, the 19th-century British cartoonists freely make individuals look monstrous or inhumanly ugly. I recall reviewing a book at one time on British satirical illustrations of the 1700s and early 1800s where the author wrote about how a member of British royalty finally had to forbid certain types of cartoons he found them so personally painful and damaging to the image of the monarchy.<BR/><BR/>Not all of the cartoonist/illustrators are British. There's many cartoons by the leading Victorian illustrators John Leech and John Tenniel (both of whom illustrated books by Dickens) and others found in the newspapers ad periodicals of the era of Britain's Empire. But there are also some cartoons by Daumier, Dore, and other foreigners with views on Britain's colonialism.<BR/><BR/>Many of the cartoons deal with either economic benefits of the Empire or indifference or cruelty to natives and their culture. Images of Britain as the noble, heroic, or self-sacrificing nation bringing civilization to the pagans alternate with ones of Britain as hypocritical, greedy, or destructive. Some cartoons represent themes, while others represent policies in showing the leading politician or government official most identified with them. Many contain portrayals of British soldiers and natives of the different lands of the Empire. The variety of their topics is engaging as well as, as Churchill commented, educating.<BR/><BR/>Cartoons fill most of every page of the main text with Bryant's general commentary and references to particular ones in columns in the lesser parts of pages. As with the author's previous similar books, the collected cartoons are "intended primarily as a pictorial history of the period as seen through the eyes of the cartoonists and caricaturists who lived through it and chronicled events as they occurred. In this case the period is the nineteenth century and the wars of the British Empire during the reign of Queen Victoria from the Crimean War to the Boer War."

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