The political cartoonist as historian : the League of Nations debate in the USA, 1918-1922 : a case study
Political cartoons have largely been ignored as a research tool by historians. Where cartoons have bee used, it has simply been to enliven books and monographs, with little attention being paid the actual cartoon. By using cartoons as the primary resource to study a specific period in history, their true worth has been shown. In 1919 America declined to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and so rejected membership of the League of Nations, despite the American president, Woodrow Wilson, being the chief advocate and architect of the League. It has been possible to follow these events, from the cessation of hostilities in November 1918 until ratification of the Treaty was defeated in 1920 and beyond, through the medium of political cartoons published in newspapers and magazines of the day. The cartoonists were both didacts and proselytisers, seeking to educate the public as to what was happening, while trying to sway the public around to their particular point of view. This intention is important to those seeking to gauge public opinion and its formulation. Apart from the political history opening up before one's eyes in a uniquely lively fashion, and because the cartoonists filled their drawing with what they saw around them, cartoons are also of value to social historians, gender historians, and others. All of these features and attitudes are recorded and prove cartoons to be an invaluable resource for many types of historical research.