About the British Cartoon Archive

About the British Cartoon Archive

Key links and information


Why British political cartoons? Why Kent?

The British Cartoon Archive began its life at the University of Kent as the Centre for the Study of Cartoons and Caricature, formally opened in 1975. 

Inspired by a recent exhibition of political and social cartoons at the National Portrait Gallery in 1972, the Centre begun its journey in 1973, supported by the University's Department of Politics. The first collections were established after a deposit of some 20,000 cartoons from the UK's national newspapers in the same year. Within a couple of years, the Centre had collections of work by artists such as Will Dyson, Ronald 'NEB' Niebour, Arthur Ferrier, Wally 'Trog' Fawkes, Reg Smythe and many more. By 1983 the collection had grown to 70,000 artworks, and this has since expanded to well over 200,000 today. 


What types of material can I find in the collections?

There are four main types of material within the collections:

  • Original cartoon artwork
  • Newspaper cuttings
  • Digital cartoons
  • Library of printed material (books, magazines and journals)   

In addition, this material is complimented by a number of archival collections containing personal papers, correspondence and objects (such as the Carl Giles Trust Archive).


Which aspects of British cartooning are your collections particularly strong in?

Our collections cover all areas of British political cartoons and caricature, but some themes are covered extensively:  

  • Extensive political commentary of 20th century
  • Victorian and Edwardian caricature
  • Societal commentary
  • World wars
  • Domestic life

What can I use BCA collections for in my research?

The BCA collections are a fantastic source for academic and personal research (or just for fun). The collections can be used for social history, political history of Britain, art and design, popular culture, visual storytelling, comic relief, media studies, and much more.


How can I access material in the British Cartoon Archive?

If you would like to carry out research in the BCA collections please send an email to specialcollections@kent.ac.uk to make an appointment. Many items have been digitised and are available to view online through the BCA's online catalogue.

Books from the British Cartoon Archive's library are listed on the University's LibrarySearch catalogue and can be searched by selecting 'British Cartoon Archive' on the right-hand drop down menu. Click through on the item you wish to see, click on the 'details' tab and select 'Request this item from the British Cartoon Archive'.

The Templeman Gallery is located within the Templeman Library, and is freely open without appointment during Library hours. Please see the Templeman Exhibitions blog for more information.

History of the British Cartoon Archive


Formation of the Centre for the Study of Cartoons and Caricature at the University of Kent


Establishment of an archive

Keith Mackenzie deposits 20,000 original cartoons from the Daily Mail and Evening Standard and the collection begins to grow. 

An inauguration event takes place in October, featuring a lecture and exhibition. The archive formally opens in 1975.


Cataloguing begins

Cataloguing of the collections held by the Centre begins.


First digitisation

The Centre begins the process of digitising cartoons from the collections.


Online catalogue

The entire catalogue of 30,000 digital images and metadata records are made available online. 


Carl Giles Trust Collection is deposited

The Carl Giles archive is donated, bringing the total amount of Giles material held to over 15,000 items.


'British Cartoon Archive' adopted

The name British Cartoon Archive is adopted to reflect the archive's position as the largest carton resource in the country.

2007 - 2009

Focus on digitisation

With help from JISC funding a BCA Digitisation project begins, the Carl Giles Archive is digitized, and the original cartoons website is created.


Strengthening collections

The BCA formally becomes part of Special Collections & Archives


A new home

Special Collections & Archives move all collections, including the British Cartoon Archive, into a custom built storage space, located in the new extension of the Templeman Library.