Resource : Figures by Chelsea Waterworks, London, observing the fires of the Gordon Riots, 7 June 1780
The Gordon Riots were a series of anti-Catholic protests which took place in London between 2 and 9 June, 1780. The protests began peacefully but descended into chaos. Crowds paralysed the city with an unparalleled level of violence, with rioters attacking and setting fire to official buildings and people’s homes. The riots are considered by some historians as being the closest Britain has ever come to a full-scale revolution, and shocked fellow European powers.
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.
Created in 1838 by inventor Louis Daguerre, this is thought to be the first ‘photograph’ of a person. The image shows a street scene from the Boulevard du Temple in Paris. In the bottom left hand corner, is a small figure – a man having his shoes shined.
Britain’s canal system was a relatively short lived, but nevertheless important revolution in transport. Canals were an essential part of the Industrial Revolution and spawned Britain’s first successful steamboat, the Charlotte Dundas.
Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) was the best-known painter of historical scenes of his generation. He was a strong supporter of the French Republic and effectively became its official artist. His painting, The Death of Marat, is one of the great propagandist images of the French Revolution.
Throughout the 1800s Britain became a busy industrial nation. People migrated in increasing numbers from the countryside to towns and cities to work in new factories and mills. Working conditions were poor and dangerous, injuries from machinery were common and workers – including children as young as six – worked long hours. Overcrowding, limited diets and polluted water led to widespread disease and early death. New Lanark, a village on the River Clyde near Glasgow, was a revolutionary industrial and housing complex, combining a cotton mill with purpose-built housing, education and social care for its workers and their families. The ideas put into practice here marked the beginning of cooperative socialism.
This satirical cartoon, by George Cruikshank, is a comment on what became known as the Corn Laws – one of the most unpopular pieces of legislation ever to be introduced by the British Government.
This illustrated novel by Frances Trollope (1779-1863) was published in monthly parts in 1840, costing one shilling apiece. It tells a fictional story of Michael Armstrong, based on the real-life hardships, exploitation and suffering of children in the workplaces of the Industrial Revolution. It was the first novel about industrial life in Britain and made an important contribution to the campaign to reform conditions for workers – especially children.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s SS Great Britain is one of Britain’s most important ships. By combining size, power and innovative technology, Brunel revolutionised sea travel and paved the way for modern ship design.
The Penny Black postage stamp – the most famous stamp in the world – marked the beginning of a brand new postal system that would transform communication across the country, and go on to sweep the globe.