Dartmoor prison was built between 1806 and 1809, mainly to confine thousands of prisoners of war. It was built in Princetown, a bleak part of Dartmoor and an ideal location because of its remoteness. It was designed by Daniel Asher Alexander, with buildings arranged like the spokes in a wheel, surrounded by a high perimeter wall. It was one of Britain’s first purpose-built prisons designed for 6,000 prisoners, and still remains a prison today, though now with a maximum capacity of just 659.
This print was one of over a thousand satires produced by the celebrated caricaturist, James Gillray, who became known as the ‘father of the political cartoon’. In the 18th century, cartoons and caricatures were a popular way of mocking the establishment and calling them to account. They would be discussed and enjoyed in shop windows, coffee houses and taverns. The arrival of the industrial printing press in the 1800s helped to spread them far and wide, through broadsides (posters), newspapers and pamphlets. This one was inspired by the resumed hostilities and ongoing rivalry between Britain and France in 1805.
Napoleon rose to power during the French Revolution, crowning himself Emperor of France in 1804. He had ambitions to carve out a vast empire and dynasty, and successfully invaded and conquered countries across the European continent in a series of bloody battles, before he was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. These became known as the Napoleonic wars.
This coat was worn by Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson when he commanded the British fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar, in 1805. In this major sea battle, the British navy defeated the combined fleets of the French and Spanish navies, temporarily ending Napoleon Bonaparte’s threat to invade Britain. Although this coat made Nelson highly conspicuous during the battle, he chose to wear it on deck to inspire his men. Nelson was shot at the height of the battle and mortally wounded. The bullet hole can be seen on the left shoulder of the coat.
Soldiers have always sung to keep their spirits up, and wars always produce songs. The Marseillaise is one of the most memorable war songs ever written. It tells us about the hopes and fears of French soldiers in 1792, during the French Revolution. In 1795 it became France’s national anthem and is now known today all over the world.
William Pitt the Younger was Prime Minister of Britain through the French Revolutionary and early Napoleonic Wars in the late 1700s and beginning of the 1800s. He was known as ‘the younger’, to distinguish him from his father, who was also named William Pitt and led the Government in the mid 1700s. This painting shows William Pitt the Younger addressing the House of Commons.
The wars precipitated by the struggles for independence and attempts at empire building that characterise the Age of Revolution, and their impact on the changing world map.