Title

Inventing David Low : self-presentation, caricature and the culture of journalism in mid-twentieth century Britain

Document Type

Journal article

Source Publication

Twentieth Century British History

Publication Date

12-1-2009

Volume

20

Issue

4

First Page

482

Last Page

512

Abstract

This essay examines cartoonist David Low's various public self-portrayals between the 1920s and 1950s both as a study of Low's self-invention as a public figure and as a window into twentieth-century understandings of the function of journalists. These self-portrayals included both relatively abstract discussions of caricature as a craft, various autobiographical writings (culminating in Low's Autobiography (1957)), and self-caricatures in cartoons. Collectively, they reveal that, despite attempts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to transform journalism into a well-defined profession or a trade, the narrative of journalism as an open and fluid profession remained salient. At the same time, journalism had gained sufficient prestige that even a caricaturist attempting to project himself as an 'artist' found it compelling to argue that his artistry enabled his practice as a 'journalist'. Low's portrayal of the 'artist as journalist', moreover, championed a particular vision of journalism, an 'educational' ideal of the press that appeared increasingly anachronistic in the age of the mass-circulation press. In Low's telling, caricature offered a way of conveying complex political positions in an ostensibly simple medium. Alongside the advantages of his medium, Low claimed personal qualities, chiefly an antipodean independence and common sense, that accounted for his success as a journalist.

DOI

10.1093/tcbh/hwp044

Print ISSN

09552359

E-ISSN

14774674

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2009, Oxford University Press

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Recommended Citation

Hampton, M. (2009). Inventing David Low: Self-presentation, caricature and the culture of journalism in mid-twentieth century Britain. Twentieth Century British History, 20(4), 482-512. doi: 10.1093/tcbh/hwp044