University research project uncovers rare First World War cartoons


In the year that the world commemorates the centenary of the First World War, a rare collection of over 300 powerful wartime images from archives across the world will be on display for the first time in London in the forthcoming months.

The public exhibition, ‘Never Again! World War I in Cartoon in Comic Art’ at The Cartoon Museum in Central

London, explores the cultural impact of wartime comics and their influence on the public consciousness, and is the result of a major research project led by Jane Chapman, Professor of Communications at the University, with support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Professor Chapman and her research team spent several years scouring archives across the world to unearth rare postcards, trench newspapers and cartoons produced by front-line soldiers which provided a platform for exposing the thoughts and feelings of those serving throughout the First World War, and depicted the harsh realities of wartime life, from air raids, to food rationing and popular wartime songs.


“Ordinary people, includingsoldiers, were producing their own newspapers, and some were creating early

comic strips when they were surrounded by suffering and death” Professor Chapman said. “This centenary year offers us an opportunity to reflect on the experiences of our ancestors 100 years ago, and I am delighted to be able to bring into public view these previously unseen illustrations”.

Visitors to the exhibition will be able to discover the work of British cartoonists such as Alfred Leete, Bruce Bairnsfather, William Heath Robinson and Donald McGill, who produced images that were at the forefront of propaganda battles aimed at bolstering the war effort. At the time, Bairnsfather’s depictions of ‘Tommy in the trenches’ were criticised by parliament as ‘vulgar caricatures of our heroes’ but were loved by the frontline troops and helped to raise more than £250,000 for the soldiers’ tobacco fund.





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