Mary Evans collection of the week: Britannia & Eve


There are still a couple more magazine titles to consider for our occasional series on the ILN archive, and this week seems a good time to focus on Britannia & Eve (1929-1955), a publication that certainly came into its own during difficult times.

Britannia & Eve magazine had launched on 1 May 1929, a merger of two separate titles. Eve, a high-quality women’s magazine, had been in publication since 1926, while Britannia, aimed at a more unisex audience, had been published throughout 1928.

The monthly magazine, consisting of roughly 125 pages, attracted a roster of quality contributors and opinion-formers (among them Mollie Panter-Downes, Clare Sheridan and Lady Troubridge), combining general interest features, short stories and articles on fashion, family, the home, health, beauty, as well as motoring, careers and education.

Its target market was aspirational middle class and upper middle-class women, and with its varied subject matter and intelligent writing, positioned itself somewhere between high fashion magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar or Vogue and the cheaper women’s weekly magazines like Woman or Woman’s Own.

Britannia & Eve’s contents are surprisingly eclectic. For starters, the bold covers are a brilliant reflection of the period, with many by women artists such as Pauline Baynes or Pat Charles. Inside, the magazine strived to mix domestic interests with a dash of glamour.

There is fashion illustration by the likes of Gordon Conway in the 1920s & 30s or Ruth Freeman’s elegant drawings of Dior and Balmain designs in the 1950s, alongside fascinating articles on beauty, cooking and home making. But there are also illustrated short stories, including the long-running series, ‘Old Stories Re-Told’ by Fortunino Matania (himself a subject of the Collection of the Week a while ago), with countless imagined historical reconstructions.

It is a stand-out resource for women’s lives during the Second World War with mountains of advice on how to make do and mend and keep up appearances, from cooking with the dreaded dried eggs to repairing a fur coat!

Click here to browse a collection of images, articles and advertisements from Britannia & Eve.

As with all other ILN titles, only a fraction of material is on our website and we are happy to search the digitised magazine archive on your behalf.

Mary Evans Picture Library newsletter – 26 March, 2020.
Picture credit ©Illustrated London News Ltd/Mary Evans