Whoever said history is a serious subject is a liar. Or, at least, that's probably what Gilbert à Beckett thought. He was the author of The Comic History of England, a three-volume 1840s text that pokes fun at Britain through the years, starting with the Druids and ending with the reign of King George II. To those who might feel offended at his humorous treatment of history, the author says in his introduction that "he has so much real respect for the great and good, that he is desirous of preventing the little and bad from continuing to claim admiration on false pretenses." Noble and funny -- sounds like this guy would have been a great dinner party guest!
The book is filled with illustrations reminiscent of political cartoons. Perhaps this shouldn't be surprising, given that à Beckett was a founding staff member at Punch magazine, which was the first publication to use the word "cartoon" in its modern sense. À Beckett pokes fun at uncouth druids and snooty nobles alike, skewering English class differences. Although, as you can see by his depiction of William the Conqueror, he's not above some good old-fashioned slapstick either!
Not an Anglophile? Never fear, à Beckett wrote more than just History of England -- Rauner has a copy of his The Comic History of Rome, too.
To see The Comic History of England, ask for Illus L516ac. For the The Comic History of Rome, Illus L516acr.
Posted for Emily Rutherford '16.