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.
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.
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.
Toussaint Louverture (1743 – 1803) was born into slavery in St Domingue (now Haïti) on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. In 1791 he led the first – and only – successful uprising of enslaved Africans. Although he died before the revolution spawned a nation, in 1804 Haiti became the first independent ‘black’ republic and contributed to the decline of the transatlantic slave trade. The events in St Domingue became known as the Haitian Revolution. This and other depictions of Louverture (in print and portraiture) reflected the high levels of fascination and respect expressed around the world for a radical figure who had refused to yield and who surmounted all foes in the revolutionary contests.