This introduction makes a case for the importance of cartoons, caricature,
and satirical art as sources for the study of imperialism. As well as
charting the scholarly development of ‘comics studies’ and its emergence as
a respectable undertaking in its own right, the editors of Comic empires
examine the thematic linkages between the different chapters of the volume.
Victorian-age critics – such as John Ruskin – did much to bestow
respectability on the cartoon as a form of art, and pointed to the
imperial-themed work of John Leech and Sir John Tenniel at Punch as the
epitome of the art. But Punch is only part of a larger movement that took
empire and its discontents as the main subject matter for cartoon comment,
from the eighteenth century prints of Hogarth, Gillray, and Rowlandson,
through to the satirical weeklies of France, the United States, and
elsewhere in the nineteenth century, and the mass circulation daily
newspapers that appeared the world over in the twentieth century.