Cartoonist’s book to take humorous look at British history

Report and picture contributed by James Mellor Creative

If there’s one thing we Brits are good at, it’s laughing at ourselves… which is just as well because Horsham-born cartoonist James Mellor’s latest book is a hysterical history of a nation’s finest – and not so fine - hours.

From Ancient Brits to the Facebook generation, his sideways look at 1,000 years of memorable moments, Drawn From History: A cartoon journey through Britain’s Past, is both sublime and ridiculous.

“The past is fascinating,” says James, who studied at Reigate Grammar and read history at York University before becoming a freelance writer and illustrator.

“This is a bit of a passion project,” he confesses. “Some of the ideas for the jokes have been with me for decades, just waiting for the right moment.

“Others are inspired by what I think are fantastic stories in history, although not necessarily the most famous.”

Viewed through a modern lens, his 111 single panel line drawings reimagine events from 10 historical periods, starting just after the Ice Age and ending at the close of the last century, but avoiding the crises and upsets of the early 21st.

“I deliberately ended it in 1994 with the opening of the Channel tunnel, so the exact opposite of Brexit!” he says.

That said, he was fully employed during the referendum campaign producing cartoons, some of which will be available as part of a Best of the Year eBook, released as a free bonus to Drawn from history.

Meanwhile, he’s busy working on his next project – a curriculum-linked book of cartoons aimed at history teachers.

“They were the first to suggest they pay me for using my cartoons, which is how I started as a professional illustrator,” explains James.

“My wife’s a teacher and I still provide cartoons for some of her lessons, although she just pays me in cakes.”

This century has seen a shift in attitude towards the role of the cartoonist, says James.

“The tragic events around Charlie Hebdo changed people’s opinions.

“There is a lot more support and understanding of what we are there to do.

“My work isn’t looking to cause controversy, though, it’s just remarkably silly.

“That said, I was aware that you have to be sensitive about making jokes of things that are in living memory – and that’s reflected in my introduction to the chapter on 20th century cartoons,” he says.

His favourite from the collection? “I quite like the joke about the Magna Carta,” he chuckles. “But to find out why, you’ll have to read the book!”

Drawn From History: A cartoon journey through Britain’s Past by James Mellor is published by Filament Publishing, priced £9.99 (ISBN: 978-1-911425-16-8) and is available from

Anyone purchasing Drawn from History from the website, will qualify to download a free bonus eBook in early 2017.

James launched James Mellor Creative in 2012 to help people turn their ideas into usable, engaging and memorable content. The business is built around his three areas of expertise; research, writing and cartoon illustration.

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