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Illingworth and the Cartoons

Leslie Gilbert Illingworth was born in Barry in 1902. He attended Cardiff Art School and then took a job with the Western Mail. He was then awarded a scholarship to Slade School of Art, and after completing his studies, returned to Cardiff to work for the Western Mail as a cartoonist. Illingworth joined the Daily Mail in 1939, and drew cartoons that were to lift Britain's morale during the Second World War, commenting on Churchill's leadership and Allied military victories. After the war ended, Illingworth was able to concentrate more on domestic issues in his cartoons, but kept a keen eye on foreign affairs, especially when they related to Britain.

He became Chief Cartoonist for the satirical magazine Punch in 1945, but remained with the Daily Mail until his retirement in 1969. He died in 1979. More information on Leslie Illingworth is available at the Spartacus Schoolnet website

The Illingworth Collection

The Illingworth cartoon collection at the National Library, which contains 4,563 images, explores a wide variety of topics through the eyes of one of Britain's best known cartoonists of the twentieth century.

The earliest items in the collection are mainly concerned with the conduct of the Second World War, battle gains and losses, and the state of the government at home. It also takes every possible opportunity to mock Hitler, Mussolini and their allies. Stalin, Roosevelt, Field Marshal Montgomery and Hideki Tojo are featured at length. The cartoons from this period allow us to follow the events of the war as they happened.

In the post war period, with Illingworth concentrating more on domestic politics, it is the newly elected Labour Government that bears the brunt of the satire, as he comments on the establishment of the NHS, developments in post war Europe and the difficulties of everyday life during the period of great austerity.

In the 1950s Churchill's return to 10 Downing Street is covered, along with a new chapter in the Cold War, the new Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev, and US President, Dwight D Eisenhower. Problems in France, Cyprus and Algeria are also covered in depth, along with the Suez Crisis, and the state of the economy. In the late 50s Harold Macmillan appears in a very high proportion of cartoons, to be replaced as the main figure of satire by Harold Wilson during the early 60s.

The collection also has extensive coverage of John F Kennedy's term in the White House and the space race.

Search the cartoon collection

The Illingworth digitisation project was carried out in partnership between the National Library of Wales and the Centre for the Study of Cartoons and Caricature at the University of Kent, Canterbury. The Centre was established in 1973 to collect and preserve British cartoons of social and political comment, and make them freely available for study.

NB. The National Library of Wales presents these documents as part of the record of the past. These primary historical documents reflect the attitudes and beliefs of different times. The National Library of Wales does not endorse the views expressed in these collections, which may contain materials offensive to some readers.