Matt Houlbrook: mobile historian; beard growing, head shaving; occasional cycling.
The historian Sam Hyde has shown that left-wing editors and cartoonists were at the cutting edge of developments of political cartooning and satire in the period around the Great War. At The Communist, the editor Francis Meynell and cartoonist Will Hope (working as “Espoir”) pioneered much of the biting humour and striking imagery that we take for granted today. In 1921 this landed them in court when Jimmy Thomas, the Labour Party MP and leader of the National Union of Railwaymen successfully sued them for libel. On “Black Friday” Thomas had allegedly betrayed the locked out miners’ union by withdrawing NUR support. As this cartoon suggests, in the hands of Hope this became a fatal act of betrayal — a stab in the back of the miners that meant Thomas was elsewhere likened to Judas Iscariot.
Click through the cartoon to find out more about Sam’s fantastic work on this libel trial.