The Past and Present War

Political Cartoons and the Memory of the First World War in Britain

in European Comic Art

This article examines the image of the First World War in British political cartoons, from the aftermath of the conflict to the present day, as an active process of remembrance. Through an analysis of cartoons in newspapers and periodicals in Britain, this study assesses how a distinct vision of the war is formed within society as a means of addressing contemporary concerns beyond the events of 1914–1918. The use of such war imagery in television, film and fiction has been recently critiqued by scholars who have lamented the way in which this popular memory obscures the history of the conflict. However, a study of political cartoons reveals that rather than constituting a cliché, specific representations of the war, namely the image of the battlefields, the trenches and suffering soldiers, acquire new meanings and constitute a dynamic process of remembrance which uses the past to critique and assess the present.