Thursday, 2 August 2012

I don't generally let political issues interfere with many of my reading excursions. However it is impossible to share this very interesting old Penguin book without mentioning World War II.

As much as the great wars were to have ended all wars we all know that just didn't happen.

Found:  Europe At War by Low : A History in Sixty Cartoons with a Narrative Text published by Allen Lane -Penguin Books 1941.

Fifty of the cartoons in the book were printed first in the London Evening Standard. Of the remainder, 8 appeared in Britain in Picture Post and/or in the USA in Collier's.  Two due to war conditions, were printed in this little book for the first time.

All of the cartoons follow their date order of publication except for the two specific ones mentioned above.

The author wrote a Forward about his opinions of the war and what he thought it meant for the world.  The Forward has a great deal of cynicism and sarcasm woven throughout but after all this is a book of cartoons. One would expect that.

"The goodwill of the intentions of the statesmen of the democracies was evident; but while they were willing to pull together, each was determined not to be the one to be pulled. When the Great Powers reserved their "rights" to the point of financial and economic absurdity- when at the just "settlement of differences" each insisted upon being its own judge and jury in accordance with its God-given sovereignty- the small fry marked the tone and, when they could, followed the example." 

Another statement from the Forward is as follows: 
"Force has already abolished many of the petty sovereignties which democracy was unable to abolish by consent. This second bitter retribution on human selfishness promises to weaken the interests vested in an obsolete order which has for so long frustrated efforts to mould a world better fitted to this age. The problem of the future will be to reconcile and synthesise socialism and democracy - to found collective principles to secure the material well-being of all, while at the same time preserving to individuals that measure of freedom which distinguishes civilized men and women, from slaves, and to peoples that cultural identity which redeems human versatility from dull monotony. "

I will leave others to comment on that ideal.

Although the forward is dated November, 1940 and the book published in 1941 it is amazing how many issues of the war are raised in the cartoons.  The most disturbing ones of course (in my humble opinion) are those people being stockpiled to be sent to the concentration camps.  

 Although I have included some of the other cartoons for people to have a look at I am also quite sensitive that the more disturbing ones should be left alone as I don't want to put my foot into anyone's psych here. So I have not posted up the ones related to the concentration camps.
World War II was not that long ago. Not really when you think about it.

I think this book is an excellent example of the importance of preserving our old Penguin books because we will never see books such as this again. Once they're gone, they're gone.  Others will follow but the Penguin books really did offer an excellent social history of much of the world. 

Discussion point: Do books such as these still have a role to play in society or is it better to not make fun of such serious events?


  1. Oh what a wonderful book. I remember looking at some of these cartoons whilst doing my degree, we used them as the basis of many discussions and essays.

    They are very clever. Thanks for sharing and bringing back memories.

  2. That is so interesting that this book was part of University studies. I love the old Penguin books w/ the political cartoons. Thank you for your comment. Pam


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