Award details

Jesse York

Department: Art History and Visual Studies

Faculty supervisor: Dr. Marcus Milwright


"With Clive, Roberts, and Allenby: The Role of Illustrations in British Adventure Novels of the 19th and 20th Centuries

Often deemed the "golden age" of children's literature, the mid-19th to early 20th centuries saw a rapid increase in the production of adventure novels aimed at an adolescent audience. Seminal authors like G. A. Henty and later F. S. Brereton captivated thousands of British youth with illustrated tales in Britain's distant colonies.

This research project addresses the collection of adventure novels residing in the University of Victoria's McPherson Library and Special Collections. While current scholarship has addressed how authors projected imperialist ideologies tied to heroism, masculinity, and duty onto their fictional narratives, fewer have addressed the significance of the novels' illustrations. This project does the latter by interpreting how these ideals are given visual credence through their depiction of real military figures like Clive, Roberts, and Allenby, and the contrasting portrayal of their adversaries. As these adversaries vary greatly between novels, a focus on those set in India and the Near East facilitates a closer look at the complexities of Britain's hierarchical colonial relationships as they were communicated to leaders in historic events like the Sepoy Mutiny and the Second Anglo-Afghan war. By inviting readers into the narrative, these illustrations both contributed  to the novels' verisimilitude and fostered stronger relationships between youth and empire.

This research is foundational to my honours thesis which, after participation in the Digital Humanities Summer Institute in June 2016, aims to digitize the illustrations in this collection.”