Portraiture, caricature and visual culture in Britain, c. 1830–80

This book examines the role of political likenesses in a half-century that was crucial for the political modernisation of Britain, a two-party system that began to take shape and politicians became increasingly accountable and responsive to public opinion. Political language, especially electoral rhetoric, has been accorded considerable weight by recent studies in building broad coalitions of political support in popular and electoral politics. The book studies political likenesses, the key mode of visual politics at this time, as part of a nuanced analysis of contemporary political culture and the nature of the representative system. It examines a diverse range of material including woven silk portraiture, oil paintings, numismatics and medals, banners, ceramics, statuary and memorials as well as items printed on paper or card. After an analysis of the visual culture spawned by the reform bills of 1831-1832, the book shows how Conservative and Liberal/Reformer identities were visualised through semi-official series of portrait prints. The pictorial press, photographs and portrait testimonials, statues and memorials, MPs were venerated as independent representatives and champions of particular localities, trades, interests or issues, and not party hacks. Depictions of Lord Palmerston and his rivals, including Lord John Russell and Lord Derby, in the 1850s and 1860s often underplayed in pictorial representations to emphasise physical and political vigour. The role of political portraits and cartoons in the decade after the passing of the 1867 Representation of the People Act is also discussed.

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spawned by the reform bills of 1831–32. In prints, caricatures and material culture, the reform bills were seen as a means to destroy a corrupt, parasitic state funded by heavy taxes. This explains why Grey’s ministry were portrayed as heroes, why the redistribution but not the franchise clauses attracted most attention and why the popular enthusiasm for the measure quickly turned to disappointment so soon after its passing. However, the 1832 Reform Act stimulated the development of a two-party system and the second chapter shows how Conservative and Liberal

in Politics personified
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Victorian Parnassus on the Isle of Wight

modern protection for the common man.66 Grote’s historical and interpretive studies were published during this critical period of national political identity formation and change, where among England’s elite, Greek history was being reinterpreted to provide a cultural and political heritage of good government. At stake for Grote was building support for representational government, especially in advance of the debates connected to the 1867 Reform Bill. In his essays, he reinterpreted the role of the ancient sophists by directly contradicting earlier British historians

in Julia Margaret Cameron’s ‘fancy subjects’
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National identity in The Wild Irish Girl and Sybil

one of Queen Victoria’s prime ministers. Disraeli, of course, became another. By the time that Sybil was published, the Reform Bill had widened the franchise a little, and the Act of Toleration had put Roman Catholicism on a better footing. Both of the nations which are in conflict in Sybil are British – we might now prefer to call them two cultures – the rich

in Cultural identities and the aesthetics of Britishness
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The reform crisis, 1830–2

riots broke out in southern England. The reform movement was encouraged further by the coming to power of the Whig reformer Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, in November 1830.1 Over 120 political unions were formed between January 1830 and May 1832, and more than half were based in northern textile manufacturing towns.2 Political unions defied the 1799 and 1819 legislation against political societies, but Earl Grey initially regarded them as useful demonstrations of public support for his reform bill. This time, the Metropolitan and Birmingham political unions led the way

in Protest and the politics of space and place, 1789–1848

value in promoting national unity and order, which might still feel current in early twenty-first-century neo-liberal times. Gladstone’s support of a National Theatre is of a piece in its time with other progressive moves towards universal education, and the general improvement of the working classes. However, it is not difficult to see in this work a tense relationship between such uses of culture and the moves towards universal suffrage after the 1867 Reform Bill. Heinrich’s essay uses the focus of a major reforming Liberal premiership to tease out what are still

in Politics, performance and popular culture
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William IV, affability and the reform crisis, 1830–37

cuddled and kissed by ‘one of the common women’ in St James’s Street. She hoped he might ‘soon go out of town and be quiet’.8 It was not the over-enthusiasm of the people that forced William to abandon his high public profile by the summer of 1832, however, but their discontent. His weak command of the Government during the Reform Bill crisis made him anything but popular, and neither he nor the Queen went anywhere without guards after that. Politics and the patriot King Radical reformers busied themselves with petitions and addresses to the King throughout the summer

in The politics of regicide in England, 1760–1850

disenfranchisement of the Irish county electorate imposed by Wellington’s government in 1829 as a quid pro quo for Catholic emancipation. It increased the number of Irish MPs to 105, and, in line with the English reform bill, the Irish Act created new copyhold and leasehold franchises for the counties and gave the vote to £10 householders in the boroughs, which led to a 30 per cent increase in the borough electorate.45 Returning to the English Reform Act, Philip Salmon has suggested that rather than being viewed as a concession or cure, reform should be viewed as a ‘consultation

in Politics personified

, they were unable to make sufficient electoral gains. However, Liberal disagreements over policy and personnel allowed the Conservatives to form minority governments on three occasions in 1852, 1858–59 and 1866–68. To give one example, Liberal MPs disagreed on the nature, extent and timing of further electoral reform, particularly regarding extending the franchise. This was why Liberal ­governments failed to carry a reform bill between 1846 and 1867, despite Russell’s best efforts.2 Visual media after 1850: from iconic portraiture to dynamic imagery After 1850 there

in Politics personified
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The melodramatic and the pantomimic

half of the nineteenth century form the focus of the rest of this essay. A year after the Great Reform Bill of 1832, ‘Theatrical Examiner’ in Leigh Hunt’s radical weekly paper, the Examiner, contributed a lengthy article which wilfully tangled up pantomime and politics. It is worth quoting at length as an example of the kind of comic seriousness of a certain kind of dashing metropolitan journalism of the 1830s: Pantomime, whose end is to hold up the mirror to Politics; to show Improvement in her own changes, Toryism its own image, and the very age and body of

in Politics, performance and popular culture