‘The Magnet’ and the Regulation of War Enthusiasm

I’ve been looking through the essays and conference papers that I’ve written over the years, and will be uploading several of them onto this site.

The first is one that I gave at a conference a few years ago, where I looked at the Magnet boys’ paper, (which featured stories of Billy Bunter and Greyfriars school). The paper represented the war in relatively complex ways. There was plenty of gung-ho patriotism in some of the stories it published, but over the four years it also offered several stories that questioned how far the War should disrupt normal life, and how far war enthusiasm should be allowed to over-ride pre-war civilised values.

As I remember the paper got a slightly frosty reception at the conference, because the dominant tone of the meeting was pacifist, and some there were not keen on the idea that a popular magazine could support the war with intelligent discrimination.

But see what you think. You can read the paper here.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Magnet, take a look at the excellent Friardale site, which has .pdf files of all the Magnet comics, and plenty about other story papers and comics, too.


  1. Posted February 5, 2020 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    I am writing from memory (the books I need to consult are all in storage under the house), so I may have this slightly wrong, but I believe the Editor of “The Magnet” during the war years was Herbert Alan Hinton and that he deliberately stoked controversy in an effort to boost sales (e.g. by making great play of himself receiving white feathers – he was of military age – which may or may not have actually occurred).

    • Posted February 5, 2020 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

      He may have had a personal motivation – G.R. Samways, resentful at being called up, certainly did.
      What really interests me is that this was part of the huge Northcliffe empire, publishing items that went very much against the Northcliffe line. I wonder – were other publications able to do the same, or did the Magnet get away with it because it was just a boys’ paper, so beneath the notice of the higher-ups in the organisation?

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