The Problem with Punch

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The comic periodical Punch is a popular source with academics working on the Victorian period and it has often been regarded as a ‘national institution’. This article takes a more nuanced view, arguing that Punch was primarily aimed at a metropolitan and middle-class audience, although it did have considerable reach. Punch largely ignored provincial Britain and had little understanding of its mighty movements like Chartism, the Anti-Corn Law League and the temperance movement. To get a better sense of public opinion in Victorian Britain as a whole, rather than just London, this article looks at the local comic periodicals which flourished all over Britain from the late eighteen-sixties to the nineteen-hundreds. The cartoons in these periodicals were very different from London cartoons, and national symbols of identity like John Bull and Britannia were surprisingly absent. Local identities were often personified instead. The ‘nationalization’ of the press from the eighteen-nineties presaged the disappearance of these local comic periodicals and cartoons in the Edwardian period.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-302
Number of pages17
JournalHistorical Research
Issue number216
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2009

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