Punch Historical Archive press release

Punch, the world’s most celebrated magazine of humour and satire, is now available in a fully searchable digital archive. The result of a partnership between Punch Ltd and Gale, part of Cengage Learning, Punch Historical Archive delivers 200,000 pages of the complete run of Punch from 1841 to 1992 in an online environment designed to enhance teaching, learning and research. The archive is an unrivalled resource for students and researchers studying 19th and 20th century political and social history, perceptions of science and technological change, the arts and media.

Among the treasures in the archive are prose by some of England’s finest comic writers such as William Thackeray and P G Wodehouse, alongside features like Punch’s long-running parliamentary sketches that look behind official accounts of the day. Superb full-page political cartoons by John Tenniel and E H Shepard (illustrators of Alice in Wonderland and Winnie-The-Pooh respectively) and ‘social’ cartoons by brilliant artists like George du Maurier, Pont with his series The British Character, Fougasse (best known for the WW2 campaign Careless Talk Costs Lives), Michael Heath and many others provide incisive critiques of 19th and 20th century life.

A delve into the pages of Punch reveals how comprehensively this influential weekly magazine captured (and sometimes shaped) the themes and events of the 19th and 20th centuries.  While perhaps best known as a source for the study of the Victorian Era, Punch Historical Archive reveals the magazine as a rich resource for researching the twentieth century, particularly the two World Wars.

Cartoons like Partridge’s The Triumph of ‘Culture’ of Kaiser Wilhelm II at the onset of the Great War can be found alongside James Dowd’s wistful Tommy in the trenches. In World War Two political cartoons such as Shepard’s brooding Hitler depict the wider conflict, while the drawings of David Langdon, Sillince and Siggs and prose like Basil Boothroyd’s Home Guard Goings On and Little Fiddle-on-the-Green Still Smiling by E M Delafield show the impact of the war on the Home Front.

Other major research themes include colonialism and the rise and decline of Empire, the Cold War and other conflicts, the impact of new technologies and modernity on daily life, growing concerns for the environment, and the changing role of women. Over the course of 150 years, Punch artists offered images that were in turn chilling, satiric, nostalgic, or acute observations of contemporary society.

The archive offers search parameters that enable users to search by article or cartoon title, keyword and caption or quickly browse an issue, special issue or contributor. The image viewer allows researchers to pan, grab, zoom or crop images which can then be saved, printed, bookmarked or emailed to others. Research tools have been specifically created to engage students in the material including commissioned essays by scholars that provide social and historical context. 

Commenting on the launch, Seth Cayley, Head of Research Solutions at Cengage Learning EMEA, said: “This is the first time that the complete Punch archive has been available in fully searchable digital form. Very few libraries have a complete collection of the vintage print copies, and even those that do are often missing special numbers or the occasional cartoon. Punch is special on account of its visual nature. It is instantly accessible in a way a straightforward newspaper may not be, which is great for engaging students and provoking classroom discussion. As part of the project we are extremely pleased to be collaborating with Dr Clare Horrocks and Liverpool John Moores University to explore new ways of studying the magazine and encouraging innovation in teaching and research.”

Andre Gailani of Punch said: “This exciting collaboration with Cengage is a landmark in preserving a cornerstone of Late Modern English culture. Cartoons, more than photos, bring people from vanished eras ‘back to life’ through their dialogue, intentions and settings. The dynamics of class, gender, politics and nations are all played out beautifully by the best artists in Punch. Writing from regulars Thackeray, AA Milne, EV Knox, Virginia Graham, Joan Bakewell, Miles Kington and Alan Coren complement those by Graham Greene, Margaret Drabble and John Steinbeck. Punch magazine is an encyclopaedia of the English psyche. From the British Empire, to the Great War and WW2, up to our Post-Modern era it captures the spirit of the times with humour and soul. Now fully digitised, conducting specific research or just browsing is a revelation.”

The Punch Historical Archive, 1841–1992 is available as a subscription or one-off purchase to all academic, public and government libraries and forms part of the Gale NewsVault programme, a cross-searchable collection of more than 13 million pages of newspaper and magazine archives, including the Times Digital Archive, the Daily Mail Historical Archive and the Independent Digital Archive – www.gale.cengage.co.uk/newsvault

To pre-register for a trial or request pricing please email emea.galereply@cengage.com or visit www.gale.cengage.co.uk

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