Ira Aldridge (1807 – 1867) was the first Black actor to play leading Shakespearian roles on the stage, both in Britain and across Europe.
Hannah More (1745-1833) was a poet, playwright, anti-slavery campaigner and one of the most influential female philanthropists of the Age of Revolution. Seen by some as an early feminist, and others as an anti-feminist, she remains a controversial figure today.
In 1781, France invaded the Channel Island of Jersey. It was successfully defended by the British – an important victory at a time when they were failing in their war with America (American War of Independence) and about to lose control of their American colonies. This painting celebrates the victory and commemorates the death of Major Francis Peirson and his refusal to surrender.
The industrial revolution describes the dramatic and long-lasting change in Wales’s landscape and infrastructure during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As innovations in steam power and the design of machinery developed and advanced, new factories, mines, railways and canals began to radically transform the landscape, manufacturing, and the way people lived and worked.
This entry includes graphic illustrations of war injuries which some may find upsetting.
This is a watercolour painting by Charles Bell, a British Army surgeon who helped to treat the wounded after the Battle of Waterloo. His haunting paintings are stark reminders of what early 19th century battle injuries were like. They are rare images executed by a practising surgeon and artist, which was an unusual combination. While his portraits powerfully show the agony and trauma experienced by these young men, they also describe their wounds with anatomical accuracy.
The writer, William Godwin is perhaps not the most famous but was one of the most influential British radicals and political philosophers of the Age of Revolution. He was married to the revolutionary feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft, and was the father of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley. He established the Juvenile Library and had a powerful influence on the Romantic poets, including William Wordsworth and his son-in-law Percy Shelley.
Born Margaret Bulkley, James Barry lived most of his life as a man, qualifying as a doctor and becoming an accomplished and respected military surgeon. His identity as a woman was only revealed when his maid laid him out after his death. It is not known whether Barry identified as a man or whether he simply kept up a disguise in order to have a medical career, at a time when women were denied this opportunity.
Marie Antoinette was the wife of the last King of France, Louis XVI, before the French Revolution overthrew the monarchy. She was known for extravagance and indulgence, and was despised by the people of France. She came to symbolise the Ancien Régime – a long-standing system where the monarchy, aristocracy and Catholic Church held absolute power and privilege over ordinary people.
James Joule became a world-renowned physicist, initially by seeking scientific advances to help his family brewery. He is best remembered for his discovery that different forms of energy – electrical, mechanical, heat – are interchangeable, and for establishing that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. The International unit of energy, the joule, is named in his honour.
In the late 1700s, the western part (St. Domingue) of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola was under French colonial rule. It had long been a major centre of sugar production on plantations using enslaved African labour. In 1791, Toussaint Louverture led the first – and only – successful uprising of slaves, in St Domingue. After a series of bloody conflicts and traumas with European colonial powers, St Domingue was renamed Haïti and became the first independent Black republic in 1804. These events became known as the Haitian revolution and played an important role in the decline of the Transatlantic slave trade. This lithograph depicts the Battle of Vertières in 1803, the final engagement between Haiti’s revolutionaries and Napoleon’s French forces.