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Late eighteenth-century caricaturists including William Hogarth, James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson and Isaac Cruikshank used breasts to capture, interpret and intervene in important aspects of Georgian life. Specific social ills, anxieties and scandals were signposted through the bodies of selfish mothers, wicked stepmothers, negligent wet-nurses, old crones, political campaigners, actresses, Amazonian viragos, rapacious fishwives as well as female monsters, demons and witches. This paper explores the important and colourful role that breasts played in British anti-revolution satirical prints. Closely reading a series of prints from the 1790s, it will trace the connections between caricatures of breasts, cultural understandings of the body politic and propagandist conceptions of Jacobinism. Satirical images of corrupted female figures suckling snakes, nursing man-child politicians or grotesquely exposing themselves in public gestured to constitutional corruption at home and abroad, presenting Britain as vulnerable to radical persuasion from its dangerous and degenerate other, France. Alongside close analysis of breast caricatures, this paper looks outwards to the many layered forms, functions and reputations of graphic satire, showing how the medium offers historians a new and nuanced perspective on the political representation of the body.  

NB This event is held in conjunction with the Oxford Graduate Seminar in History, 1680-1850.


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