The political cartoon as educationalist journalism David Low's portrayal of mass unemployment in interwar Britain

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Journal article

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Journalism Studies

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David Low, journalism, mass culture, political cartoons, unemployment


This article examines David Low's depiction of unemployment in his cartoons during the interwar period, as a case study of the political cartoon as journalism. In doing so, it highlights the instability of journalism as a genre or, put more positively, the self-conscious blurring of generic forms. Even as the word journalist shed its mid-nineteenth-century opprobrium, late nineteenth-century voices had argued over the competing claims of reporters, leader-writers, and proprietors to the title of journalist (Hampton 2005). Low, while claiming his caricature as art, simultaneously asserted his identity as a journalist and the status of caricature as journalism. This articulation constituted, among other things, a response to contemporary debates about the New Journalism. In an era in which cultural traditionalists and leftist political writers both lamented what they saw as the debasement of public discourse through a popular journalism that was incapable of grappling with complexity, and in which, they argued, the yielding of the word to image was one of its gravest failings, Low used caricature to offer systemic critiques of British political and economic arrangements. Accordingly, while the interwar popular press was commonly dismissed as lacking in serious political contenta dismissal that has generally been echoed by historians (Bingham 2012)Low's political cartoons demonstrated the capacity for conveying serious political messages within an entertaining medium.



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Hampton, M. (2013). The political cartoon as educationalist journalism David Low's portrayal of mass unemployment in interwar Britain. Journalism Studies, 14(5), 681-697. doi: 10.1080/1461670X.2013.810905