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Inventing the Cave ManFrom Darwin to the Flintstones$
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Andrew Horrall

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781526113849

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526113849.001.0001

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Antediluvian pictorial fun: E.T. Reed and the prehistoric peeps

Antediluvian pictorial fun: E.T. Reed and the prehistoric peeps

(p.80) 4 Antediluvian pictorial fun: E.T. Reed and the prehistoric peeps
Inventing the Cave Man

Andrew Horrall

Manchester University Press

This chapter is centred on the ‘prehistoric peeps’ cartoons that E.T. Reed began publishing in Punch magazine in 1893. These immensely influential images, which appeared for years and were reproduced throughout the English-speaking world, marked the point at which the cave man character entered popular culture. Reed’s scruffy human cave men were not related to gorillas or missing links and so they posed no existential racial threat. They inhabited a completely fanciful world that is also easily recognisable as an archaic version of late-Victorian Britain. Reed poked gentle fun at contemporary institutions, ideas and events. It was a conservative view of the ancient past that endorsed late-Victorian ideas about gender, class and national identity. Reed’s images were especially popular in the colonies, where they were used to promote a British identity and erase indigenous peoples from local history. Reed’s impact on contemporaries is explored, especially American cartoonists whose imitative images finally popularised cave men in that country. Reed’s cartoons were also recreated on stage by professional and amateur performers in Britain and throughout the empire. Writers explored prehistory in literature. By the turn of the century, Reed’s unthreatening, middle class vision of prehistory predominated.

Keywords:   Australia, British identity, cave man, Cro-Magnons, imperialism, Java Man, literature, Punch magazine

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