In the late 1700s, the image of a kneeling, enslaved African man, accompanied by the words ‘Am I not a man and a brother’ became the most prominent emblem for those wishing to abolish the Transatlantic slave trade, in both Britain and America. As well as appearing in books, prints and pamphlets, it was also reproduced on an extraordinary variety of everyday and household items – from crockery and soft furnishings, to jewellery and hairpins.
These are the original ‘Wellington boots’, designed for the Duke of Wellington to be both practical and fashionable. They were adapted from the ‘Hessian’ boots previously worn by British officers to allow the wearing of new lightweight linen trousers rather than traditional woollen ones. They were cut lower to make riding more comfortable, and no longer had a tassel. After the Duke’s victory at Waterloo, this style of boot became extremely fashionable and spread through London society, eventually inspiring the modern ‘welly’.
Today, the stethoscope is a fundamental and indispensable part of a doctor’s kit, often providing the first clues to the nature of a variety of chest complaints. But in the early 1800s, simple diagnostic tools like this had yet to be developed. The invention of the stethoscope by René Laënnec (1781 – 1826) revolutionised the capacity of the physician (doctor) to diagnose chest, heart and lung complaints.
The atmospheric engine was invented by Thomas Newcomen in 1712. It was the first machine to be powered by steam and was largely used to pump water out of mines. Hundreds of these engines were made and used all over Britain and Europe in the 1700s. They became known simply as the Newcomen Engine and helped pave the way for the Industrial revolution.
James Watt’s ingenious improvements to the steam engine transformed this relatively simple technology, making it more efficient and adapting it so it could be used to turn wheels. His ideas revolutionised steam power, literally driving the industrial revolution and transforming the British landscape and the lives of its people.
This is a selection of tokens from mothers who, unable to keep their babies, left them at the Foundling Hospital in London. They highlight the plight of single mothers and destitute families unable to care for their children and are a poignant reminder of the growing poverty crisis as cities became more heavily industrialised and workers more mobile during the Age of Revolution. Many babies were left anonymously by their mothers, along with a token to identify them, in the hope that they might be reunited in the future.
Red Phrygian or ‘liberty’ caps were long associated with the theme of liberty in European and colonial cultures. They were used as icons during the American Revolution and worn during the French Revolution in the late 1700s and came to symbolise allegiance to the republican cause. Along with the red, white and blue cockade, pinned to these and other hats, they became a lasting symbol of revolutionary France.
The industrial printing press was one of the most influential inventions of the Age of Revolution. It allowed thousands of copies of all types of written texts and images to be printed quickly and cheaply. Pamphlets, newspapers, handbills and books could now be mass produced and distributed, spreading news, ideas, political and social campaigns, propaganda, stories, poetry and more.
The advent of steam hauled railways in the 1820s quickly revolutionised passenger travel and the transport of goods across Britain and the wider world. This is an early train ticket for a journey from Liverpool to Warrington.
John McAdam revolutionised road travel in the 1800s, through his ‘Macadamisation’ method. The greatest advance in road construction since Roman times, his principles are still applied to road building today.