The Historical Journal


a1 University of York

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This article examines the role of graphic satire as a tool of agitation and criticism during the early 1640s, taking as its case study the treatment of the archbishop of Canterbury and his episcopal associates at the hands of engravers, etchers, and pamphlet illustrators. Previous research into the political ephemera of early modern England has been inclined to sideline its pictorial aspects in favour of predominantly textual material, employing engravings and woodcuts in a merely illustrative capacity. Similarly, studies into the contemporary relationship between art, politics, and power have marginalized certain forms of visual media, in particular the engravings and woodcuts which commonly constitute graphic satire, focusing instead on elite displays of authority and promoting the concept of a distinct dichotomy between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture and their consumers. It is argued here that the pictorial, and in particular graphic, arts formed an integral part of a wider culture of propaganda and critique during this period, incorporating drama, satire, reportage, and verse, manipulating and appropriating ideas and imagery familiar to a diverse audience. It is further proposed that such a culture was both in its own time and at present only fully understood and appreciated when consumed and considered in these interdisciplinary terms.

(Published Online November 29 2004)


1 I am grateful to the History of Art Department at the University of York for their financial assistance in the preparation of this article, earlier versions of which received the constructive comments of Mark Jenner, Mark Hallett, Kevin Sharpe, and the anonymous reader for the Historical Journal.