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Cartoons and British imperialism during the Attlee Labour government
Charlotte Lydia Riley

This chapter examines the often uncertain attitudes of British cartoonists towards imperialism in the post-war, Attlee period (1945–1951). This period is often perceived as one of declining imperial power for Britain, marked by the independence of India and the loss of Palestine. However, the imperial policies of the Attlee Labour government were not simply those of managed decline. In this period the Colonial Office – under Arthur Creech Jones, the Colonial Secretary – pursued a series of ambitious projects of growth and development in the empire, from social welfare projects to the notorious ‘Groundnut Scheme’. Far from being ‘anti-imperial’, Labour embraced its new colonial role, rejecting immediate independence for the African colonies in favour of a gradual move towards decolonisation. Cartoon representations of Labour’s imperial policies in this period focus on several key themes. Firstly, the Labour Party’s reputation for anti-imperialism, and the Attlee government’s actual ideological stance towards empire; secondly, the colonial development projects (both successful and unsuccessful) pursued by the Colonial Office; thirdly, decolonisation, independence, and colonial nationalist movements. This chapter explores these three themes, considering how accurately Labour’s imperial policies are depicted, and how prominently colonial concerns feature in cartoon representations of the Labour government in general.

in Comic empires