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The cartoon became well known as a medium during the middle of the eighteenth century, and was an ideal way of presenting important news to an illiterate population. Thomas Rowlandson and James Gillray were pioneers in this field. The world famous illustrated magazine, Punch, was first published in 1841, and at around the same time the common symbols that represent Britain, Britannia, John Bull and the lion, as well as Uncle Sam representing America, came to be known.

Political cartoons became more important during the Second World War, as a way to boost British morale, and in the post-war period, cartoons spread to almost all daily newspapers.

They are, however, a medium that depends entirely on the opinions and prejudices of the cartoonist, and so they should not be relied on for historical fact, rather as an indication of the opinions of a section of society.