Top five: Political Cartoons

Contributed by Felix M. Larkin

Our newest monthly feature is the ‘Top 5’. We have asked researchers to submit their favourite top 5 books within their own field of interest. This month Felix M. Larkin, author of Terror and Discord: the Shemus Cartoons in the Freeman’s Journal, 1920-1924 published by A & A Farmar, has submitted his top 5 books about political cartoons:

Forty Years of Dublin Opinion (Dublin: Dublin Opinion Ltd, 1967)

Dublin Opinion was a satirical magazine published continuously from 1922 to 1968 and celebrated for its gentle, but perceptive, cartoons.  Its motto, ‘Humour is the Safety Valve of a Nation’, is as true today as it was then!

L.P. Curtis Jr, Apes and Angels: the Irishman in Victorian caricature (London: David & Charles Ltd, 1971).

Perry Curtis is a pioneer of Irish cartoon studies, and his theme here is the racial stereotyping – in particular, the “simianization” – of the Irish in Victorian political cartoons.   This is a book about the serious side of comic art.

Roy Douglas, Liam Harte & Jim O’Hara, Drawing Conclusions: a cartoon history of Anglo-Irish relations, 1798-1998 (Belfast: The Blackstaff Press, 1998)

The great value of this book is that it demonstrates the changing styles of caricature over two hundred years.  The authors present a wide range of cartoons, from a variety of sources, highlighting the often absurd nature of Ireland’s relationship with Britain.

L.P. Curtis Jr, Images of Erin in the age of Parnell (Dublin: National Library of Ireland, 2000).

This is a short, but beautifully illustrated, study of the depiction of the iconic female figure of “Erin” or “Hibernia” in late nineteenth century political cartoons.

John Killen, The Unkindest Cut: a cartoon history of Ulster, 1900-2000 (Belfast: The Blackstaff Press, 2000)

John Killen is the librarian of Belfast’s Linen Hall Library, and his selection of cartoons provides much greater insight into aspects of Northern Ireland’s troubled past than words alone could ever do.

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15 Responses to “Top five: Political Cartoons”

  1. Patrick Maume Says:

    There’s a nice blunder in DRAWING CONCLUSIONS which sheds a certain light on changing political terminology. It reproduces a cartoon from a British newspaper showing Britain and Ireland celebrating the signing of the Treaty. In the background there are some figures which the original caption describes as “Diehards slouching away to the ports, their occupation gone”. The editorial commentary describes these figures as diehard Republicans, and at just about any time in the decades after 1922 the term “diehard” in the Irish context would indeed be understood to refer to intransigent Republicans; but a closer look at the cartoon reveals that the “diehards” are wearing top hats and evening dress – i.e. they are diehard Tories and Southern Unionists!

  2. Felix Larkin Says:

    Well spotted, Patrick. There is a brilliant caricature of Stanley Baldwin by ‘Shemus’ in my TERROR AND DISCORD book, with a conservative party die-hard archetype lurking in the background. When Baldwin became prime minister, the Freeman’s Journal had accused him in an editorial of “complacency towards the Die-hards”, and the caricature (which appeared in the Freeman) echoes that. There is also a superb Shemus cartoon about southern Irish unionists who had emigrated after the 1921 Treaty (published in the Freeman on 29 June 1923, and reproduced in DRAWING CONCLUSIONS and also in TERROR AND DISCORD ).

  3. Patrick Brown Says:

    Interesting selection, some of which I’ve read, some I haven’t yet. I’ve recently got a copy of Joel A Hollander’s “Coloured Political Lithographs as Irish Propaganda”, which seems to concentrate on John Fergus O’Hea’s work on the Weekly Freeman, but I’ve barrely started it so how highly I can recommend it I don’t know yet. Lots of lovely cartoons in colour plates at the back though.

  4. Patrick Maume Says:

    The Hollander book is from Edwin Mellen Press. I picked up a second-hand copy at a bookfair some time ago. It discusses cartoons by JD Reigh as well as by o’Hea. One caveat I have is that the historical commentary seems to automatically identify with the Parnellite/Land League position (i.e. to asssume nationalist statements are te simple truth rather than political interventions which have their own motivations/elisions and need to be placed in context)
    Hollander has done a fair bit of homework, though – for example, he identifies the malevolent Unionist cartoonist JR Clegg (previously known to me only by his initials) though he’s not aware of the full extent of Clegg’s work.

  5. Patrick Brown Says:

    Interesting – haven’t come across Clegg before. Where might I find out more about him?

  6. Patrick Maume Says:

    I have some discussion of his work in a couple of articles on the late Victorian DUBLIN EVENING MAIL which are currently making their way through the publication process. One is to appear in IRISH HISTORICAL STUDIES in May 2011, the other is under consideration for a book on GLADSTONE AND IRELAND (hopefully with some Clegg illustrations). I know nothing of his background but he was writing stage-Irish letters on Irish affairs for the EVENING MAIL’s weekly edition THE WARDER from 1875, and illustrating them with cartoons from 1883. I hope to do a piece on him for HISTORY IRELAND when I find the time.

  7. Patrick Maume Says:

    The NLI prints and drawings division may have more information – I think they are Hollander’s source.

  8. Patrick Maume Says:

    I have just checked the IRISH TIMES archive and found his obit in the 10 July 1922 issue – an appropriate time for him to die. It says he was prominent in the Boy Scouts (the old Scout Association of Ireland) and was its president for three years, so if there is a history of the SAI it may have more information.

    • Bessan Says:

      1) A)I think the point of this cartoon is shwnoig how the government is trying to enforce some laws.B) This relates to federalism because its effecting all of the states.2) A) I think the point of this is how the government is over the little governments.B) It relates to federalism because it shows how the local government is smaller then the big government.3) A) I think the point of this is be with us or be against us.B) It relates to federalism because it shows how the states work together.4) A) I think the point of this is shwnoig how a small group of people was tryin to work together.B) This relates to federalism because the people are planning how to do something.5) A) I think the point of this is how the people is protest for there rights.B) This relates to federalism because how the people are enforce there rights.

  9. Felix Larkin Says:

    There is a general history SCOUTING IN IRELAND by Fr. J. Anthony Gaughan (2006), and this covers the old Scout Association of Ireland as well as Fianna Eireann and the Catholic Boy Scouts of Ireland. Unfortunately, Clegg’s name does not appear in the index.

  10. Patrick Brown Says:

    A question for the cartoon historians, if anyone’s still reading this thread.

    In the Collins Collection of Irish Political Cartoons there are several signed “Phil Blake”. In an effort to find out a little about him I’ve searched the web and JSTOR, and most of the responses refer to a passage in Joyce’s Ulysses, the Aolus episode, which is set in the offices of the Weekly Freeman, and includes the passage “Cartoons. Phil Blake’s weekly Pat and Bull story. Uncle’ Toby’s page for tiny tots.”

    I assume “Pat and Bull” was a regular comic strip by Blake? Does anyone know anything about it?

  11. You have been reading, in order of appearance… « Pue's Occurrences Says:

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