Illustrated British Cookbooks, 1939-1965
: A Close Reading of Cookbook Illustration as Textual Communication and Creative Practice

  • Lorna Kate Sheppard

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Whilst there is a substantial body of literature on the history of the cookbook,
the study of cookbook illustrations has been largely neglected. This thesis
examines the role of the illustrator and illustration and how they made
important and distinctive contributions in a selection of key illustrated British
cookbooks between the years 1939 and 1965. It argues that over these
twenty-six years illustration changed significantly to reflect significant social
and cultural changes in Britain. It also examines how illustrators used their
professional practice to respond to these changes and the methods they used
to elevate illustration as a form of textual communication. This study thus
addresses the disparity of and the gap in knowledge in this under-researched
The Introduction provides a summary of the period under investigation
and why it was chosen, followed by the Literature Review and Methodology in
Chapter One. Chapter Two goes on to provide an analysis of British
cookbooks made through a brief historiography up to and including the
interwar period. Chapter Three offers an analysis of illustrated cookbooks and
free Ministry of Food cookery leaflets used during the Second World War.
Chapter Four’s focus on the cookbooks of Elizabeth David shows how John
Minton’s and Renato Guttuso’s illustrations inspired middle-class readers to
look beyond David’s cookbooks and expand their culinary horizons through
travel and touristic experiences. Through an analysis of the work of Alan
Cracknell, David Gentleman and Juliet Renny, Chapter Five explores how
illustrators applied techniques that were drawn from their own scholarly
experiences where the reader became a culinary scholar. Chapter Six
investigates the post-rationing cookbooks of the Stork Margarine Cookery
Service and how anonymously authored illustrations were used as marketing
devices to appeal to working-class consumers. Chapter Seven examines the
cookbooks of writer and illustrator Len Deighton whose predominately male
readers were instructed in how to cook using a simplified recipe method called
the cookstrip. These chapters reveal how illustration played an important role
in the development of the British cookbook and its meaning, and how
illustration enhanced and established the reader’s understanding of recipes.
Date of Award16 May 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorDeborah Sugg Ryan (Supervisor) & Laurel Forster (Supervisor)

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