Outrage and imperialism, confusion and indifference
Punch and the Armenian massacres of 1894–1896
in Comic empires
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‘Outrage and imperialism’ explores the response of Punch to the Armenian massacres of 1894–1896. The high moral position taken against the Ottomans – and the advocacy of British and pan-European intervention to defend the Armenians – is evident in the work of Sir John Tenniel and his junior cartoonist Linley Sambourne. Characterisations of the Sultan or a generic Turkish figure were complemented by depictions of a despicable hyena. A more darkly humorous take on the situation was offered by E. T. Reed. In observing Punch’s reactions, questions are prompted about the ways in which the west has absorbed and reformulated eastern issues for its own purposes. Punch and its readers responded with a mixture of indignation, confusion, anger, and equivocality. In a culture dominated by Orientalist fictions and tropes, Britons’ understanding of the nature of Muslim–Christian relations in the Ottoman Empire was opaque at best. And criticism of Ottoman imperialism was never permitted to interfere with attitudes towards its British counterpoint.

Comic empires

Imperialism in cartoons, caricature, and satirical art

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