Isaac Cruikshank and the notion of British liberty, 1783-1811
This is a history of communication, specifically those communications found in past (imagined) communities which augmented, shaped and renegotiated shared culture. This culture, perceptible during the late Georgian era in public forms such as books, pamphlets, prints, performance, architecture, paintings and a wide range of ephemeral material, positions itself inextricably within the visual imagination. This then is also a history of visual communicative cultures, of the various shapes and forms that occupied the ocular registers of past peoples. Graphic satire was one of these contemporary visual forms and it is therefore a task of this thesis to place this printed single-sheet medium within the lives and cultural perception of late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Britons; specifically, due to where these satires were published, Londoners. Like all historical sources, graphic satires present specific challenges. They were publicly facing compositions designed to shock and provoke; outwardly packed with sex, titillation, violence and prurient curiosity, framed by lewd, deliciously vicious and bawdy narratives, and set against the dirt and grime of London's streets. Hence satirical prints were as much an aspect of rude culture as visual culture, yet this does not mean they had nothing serious or important to say. Indeed one of the major thematic agendas of graphic satire in this period concerned notions of British liberty. It is therefore the central task of this thesis to unpick how and why this medium represented libertarian values in the way it did.