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Inventing David Low : self-presentation, caricature and the culture of journalism in mid-twentieth century Britain
Twentieth Century British History
  • Mark HAMPTON, Lingnan University, Hong Kong
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Journal article
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This essay examines cartoonist David Low's various public self-portrayals between the 1920s and 1950s both as a study of Low's self-invention as a public figure and as a window into twentieth-century understandings of the function of journalists. These self-portrayals included both relatively abstract discussions of caricature as a craft, various autobiographical writings (culminating in Low's Autobiography (1957)), and self-caricatures in cartoons. Collectively, they reveal that, despite attempts in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to transform journalism into a well-defined profession or a trade, the narrative of journalism as an open and fluid profession remained salient. At the same time, journalism had gained sufficient prestige that even a caricaturist attempting to project himself as an 'artist' found it compelling to argue that his artistry enabled his practice as a 'journalist'. Low's portrayal of the 'artist as journalist', moreover, championed a particular vision of journalism, an 'educational' ideal of the press that appeared increasingly anachronistic in the age of the mass-circulation press. In Low's telling, caricature offered a way of conveying complex political positions in an ostensibly simple medium. Alongside the advantages of his medium, Low claimed personal qualities, chiefly an antipodean independence and common sense, that accounted for his success as a journalist.

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Hampton, M. (2009). Inventing David Low: Self-presentation, caricature and the culture of journalism in mid-twentieth century Britain. Twentieth Century British History, 20(4), 482-512. doi: 10.1093/tcbh/hwp044