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 Britain’s landscape and infrastructure during the 18th and 19th 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 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.
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 Mary Shelley. He established the Juvenile Library and had a powerful influence on the Romantic poets, including William Wordsworth andhis son-in-law Percy Shelley.
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.
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.
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.
Angelica Kauffman was a successful and influential artist of the mid-late 1700s, and one of only two female founder members of the Royal Academy of Arts, in Londonin 1768. Despite also being a skilled portrait and landscape artist, she is rememberedprimarily for her success as a history painter. This was seen as the most elite category in academic painting at the time, and an unusual choice for a female artist.