Looking Back into the Future

“Punch” magazine, 2 June 1866.

16 April 2020

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch on the prophecy of Punch.

Ralf-Peter Stumme recently posted an addendum to my piece on “The Oxford – Cambridge Boat Race: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”, showing a Punch cartoon from 1901 which suggest that by 1950 the Boat Race would be between submarines.

Underwater racing has not happened yet, but another joke by Punch on what future Boat Races may look like has (eventually) proven to be more accurate – even though at the time it was intended to be as ridiculous as the ‘sub-river’ prediction. As the above shows, in 1866 the magazine hilariously suggested that ‘the Boat Race of the future’ would be between women.

Cartoonists do have some strange ideas. In 2000, an episode of The Simpsons, Bart to the future, included the somewhat unlikely idea that Donald Trump would become President of the United States. Perhaps we should not write-off submarine boat races yet.

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