The complete archive of one of the world’s most famous comic magazines is now available in fully searchable digital form.
Published by Gale, part of Cengage Learning, the Punch Historical Archive, 1841-1992 consists of 200,000 pages. “That’s not just all the weekly issues,” explained academic adviser Clare Horrocks, senior lecturer in humanities at Liverpool John Moores University, “but the Christmas almanac and special supplements, too – it’s very much about the complete Punch brand identity. It opens up a wealth of material that has never been studied before.”
Dr Horrocks has used the magazine to look at public health campaigns. Others she knows have researched topics as diverse as Italian organ grinders; smoke taxes and pollution; and the cult of “the athletic and muscular” revealed in the growing popularity of rowing and cricket.
By the early 20th century, she added, Punch “engages in much debate on women’s suffrage, women’s participation in sport and education, often lampooning both sides. There is a big debate among historians about why it was so patriotic during World War One – was the editor, Owen Seaman, officially instructed to keep the home fires burning?” Yet images range from sharply satirical cartoons of a bloodthirsty Kaiser Wilhelm to a touching picture of a wistful Tommy in the trenches.
A crucial source for insight into 19th- and 20th-century attitudes and social history illuminating everything from colonialism to the Cold War, the Punch Historical Archive is available on subscription or one-off purchase to all academic, public and government libraries.
Dr Horrocks has gone through the old contributor ledgers to provide attributions for all the texts and artwork. A tie-in section on the LJMU website provides sample searches on themes such as fashion and representations of the Irish.
Backup material includes essays on editors and contributors; teaching and learning with Punch (including seminar exercises that Dr Horrocks has used at LJMU); and the process of putting the archive online.
More contextual and explanatory material will be added over the coming months.