Long Live the Nation: Political Cartoonist and Nationalism In Victorian England


  • Julie Courtwright Wichita State University


political cartoons, political commentary, British nationalism, Sir John Tenniel, Victorian era, Punch, national public opinion


Few things are as innocent as a weekly episode of Charles Shultz's Peanuts in the Sunday newspaper. Most often, the sole purpose of the artist is to cause the reader to smile, to momentarily allow melancholia to be replaced by laughter, to entertain. Shultz's work is part of a group of cartoons that be described as comic art. Another group, the social cartoon, is designed to amuse the reader, but also to provide commentary on some annoying or worrisome aspect of life. A third type of cartoon, however, is rarely innocent and usually deals with loftier issues than life's inconveniences. The political cartoon is a partisan, and often nationalistic, comment made by the artist. Through his or her work, the cartoonist seeks to "influence the viewer to a particular viewpoint and predispose him or her to a particular action." Political cartoons are frequently known for "artistic excellence" and humor, but these characteristics are always secondary to the ideas that the drawings express. Truly excellent political cartoons are symbolic, but simple. They may not be purely representational, but any misrepresentation or exaggeration must be believable. Finally, and most importantly, political cartoons must be rooted in truth and be about a subject which has "lasting importance."1 Cartoons are, in fact, an important resource for scholars interested in the political climate of a nation. The artist's drawings not only reflect prominent issues of a nation, but help shape feelings of nationalism among its citizens.