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Behind the thin black line: Leslie Illingworth and the political cartoonist in wartime

Bryant, Mark (2002) Behind the thin black line: Leslie Illingworth and the political cartoonist in wartime. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.85996) (KAR id:85996)


W. H. Russell, the famous war correspondent of The Times. created the phrase 'The Thin Red Line' to describe the brave stand of British troops against the Russians during the Crimean War. It is the intention of this thesis to explore the work of the political cartoonist in wartime using the example of one particular artist, Leslie Illingworth of the Daily Mail during the Second World War. This is a relatively new area of research and the main aim of the thesis is to discover what it is that a staff political cartoonist working for a national daily newspaper actually does in wartime. In addition, it investigates what sort of person such an artist is, what his relationship is to his newspaper, his public and the government of the day, and how far his material follows in the historical traditions of political cartoon art. The thesis draws on extensive archive material - including a large uncatalogued collection of wartime cartoons by Illingworth deposited in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth - and considerable original research into the hitherto unrecorded life of the artist himself. After tracing the history of war cartoons in general, the history of the Daily Mail and the background of Illingworth's own life and career, a detailed study is made of Illingworth's wartime political cartoons - their content, frequency of publication and other factors - before examining his work in the context of his wartime contemporaries and evaluating the impact of his cartoons on the readers of the Daily Mail and the world at large. The thesis concludes that, during the Second World War in particular, political cartoonists had a far from simple job and were important figures who were greatly valued by the newspapers for which they worked, by the public at large and by the government of the day. Their creations were seen by Britain and her allies - as well as her enemies - as a significant weapon in the arsenal of democracy. Also, as the Second World War was the last major international conflict before the widespread use of television, it is argued that this period marked the high point in the development of political war cartoons in daily newspapers throughout history. In addition, by demonstrating that Leslie Illingworth of the Daily Mail can be seen not only as a typical political cartoonist working as a staff artist on a typical national daily newspaper during this period, but also one of its most accomplished practitioners, a case is made for viewing him as one of the finest political war cartoonists of all time.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.85996
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of History
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:24 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 17:15 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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