During the First World War, David Low primarily worked for Australian journals, where he developed his reputation for criticizing politicians, such as the Prime Minister of Australia, “Billy” Hughes. Though, during the post-World War I period, Low worked for many press companies as a cartoonist for them, such as the Star, Daily Herald, Manchester Guardian, et cetera. While he worked there, he took interest in Winston Churchill, a British politician at the time, and drew him — according to A.
J.P. Taylor — with “savage realism”, portraying him negatively to the public on most occasions. This was due to Churchill’s political misjudgements that led Low to target him as a subject for his cartoons.
For example, Churchill has made some political blunders, such as his attempt to convince Lloyd George to get involved in the Russian Revolution of 1919. In a cartoon Low published in the early 1920s, during the Russian Revolution, he portrayed Churchill as a “war mongering arch-reactionary” and “latter-day Napoleon”, due to his ineffective strategy of intervening in the war.
Throughout this period, Churchill has made many tactical errors and misjudgments that allowed Low to criticize him, showing Low’s perspective upon him through his illustrations and actions. Though Churchill has made errors as a politician, Low always managed to point them out.
Afterwards, during the Second World War, Low began to focus more on Winston Churchill as he gained more power to eventually become the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
Their relationship can be considered that of “friendly enemies”, where there is not true scorn or hatred between the cartoonist and politician. This is not unusual because in most cases, there is a love-hate relationship between a politician and cartoonist. Despite their history of Low criticizing Churchill’s every decisions, Low supported Churchill, which is seen when Low creates a cartoon for him called ‘All behind you Winston’.
This was in an effort to capture the public’s support for him as a prime minister during World War II. This time during the war, Low respected Churchill and portrayed him without degenerating him because he believed in the politician, and wanted the public to support him as well. He was “happy to join the chorus of praise for his old target as the embodiment of Britain”, meaning that his past criticisms were not made out of spite, but just as judgment and support. Finally, after the end of the war and during Churchill’s eightieth birthday, Low created an illustration in commemoration to his time spent as a politician, along with his livelihood apart from politics. With this, Low establishes that there was a connection between the two, though it may have just been the usual cartoonist’s and politician’s relationship, though it ended in a positive one.
Although Low was focused primarily on another politician during the First World War, and he was not employed in the until it was 1919, he still had a particular opinion of Churchill. This allowed for him to not only build his career, but to speculate as much as possible to where he was able to develop a connection with Churchill. His illustrations and published cartoons have set an image of Churchill and his actions, but they have also shown what Churchill meant to Low as a person. He did not care for his “demeanor and politics”, for he only focused on who Churchill was and how “ridiculous” he was with his judgement during critical events in history. Low’s opinion of Churchill did change from the First World War to the Second one because Low had originally portrayed him as incompetent due to his misjudgements, such as the time where Churchill attempted to involve the United Kingdom into the Russian Revolution after World War I. His misjudgments allowed for Low to use him as a caricature in his illustrations, which were usually viewing him negatively or with many flaws. Throughout the years during and after World War II, Low changed his view on Churchill and chose to illustrate him positively, such as his drawing “All behind you, Winston”.
Though, it can be argued that Low’s opinion of Churchill has not changed due to the love-hate relationships cartoonists and politicians have— Low and Churchill were not exclusive to this. Low has always viewed him in a way that allowed for him to illustrate him, without any bias or filter, which he has done of Churchill all throughout his career as a cartoonist. His work that he created for his eightieth birthday can be an act of kindness or respect that Low had towards him, especially with Churchill’s political power.
It does not have to be a shift in his opinion towards the politician, for Churchill has not helped him gain more recognition and fame by mentioning him to the public and supporting the cartoonist. It could have been considered commensalism, a type of symbiotic relationship where only one benefits— this case being Churchill gaining recognition for the works Low creates of him. Low would not have enough of a reason, coupled with the relationship a politician and its caricaturist would typically have, to change his view towards Churchill.
Despite this, it can be concluded that Low’s opinion of Churchill has changed from the beginning, where Churchill sparked the cartoonist’s interest in him to illustrate him in various cartoons. The relationship they possessed has developed into a positive one, where Low views him as a respectable leader, despite the errors he has made as a politician. He did not ridicule him to where it would have affected Churchill’s reputation to the public, and chose to support him at times where he may have needed support, such as the Second World War. Due to this, David Low’s opinion of Winston Churchill has changed over the periods of war, from a negative one to a more positive opinion of him.
The process of this investigation facilitated my comprehension of the historical processes employed by historians. In researching the context in which my topic was discussed, I found the identification of primary and secondary sources to be particularly vital in constructing my personal analysis of history, while also using these sources to validate my claim. In venturing to investigate the relationship between David Low and Winston Churchill, I realized there were various occasions that factored in Low’s appreciation of Churchill as a leader and, as a historian, I had to analyze the significance of each and eventually identify one factor as most significant.
In comparing a variety of sources, their credibility, and significance, I became aware of the obstacles a historian faces in analyzing history. In regard to primary sources, I found them incredibly valuable as they provided first-hand insight of the political dynamics of the relationship between the Low and Churchill. While examining secondary sources, I realized the influence that perspective bias has in them as the historians’ historiographies were influenced by strong opinions, usually without assessing different perspectives as their reputations have already been solidified and do not need to validate their analyses.
Ultimately, I gained invaluable insight and comprehension of the process of carrying out a historical investigation and constructive understanding of the identification and evaluation of various sources in my topic. This exploration of the relationship between David Low and Winston Churchill facilitated my understanding of the significance of evaluating the credibility of various types of sources in the process of analyzing causation relationships in history.