New exhibition, in the library and online: Cambridge caricatures of the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune (1870-71)

A display of our collection of Franco-Prussian caricatures, is on until 7 May 2022 on the first floor of Cambridge University Library, for readers and visitors. The online exhibition is now also available, providing a snapshot of how 1870-71 caricaturists represented the overthrown Napoleon III and the imperial family (a favourite object of ridicule), or the Prussian enemy (Wilhelm I and his Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, featured, along with German soldiers, as comical yet relentless conquerors and plunderers).

W. Alexis, Triumphal entry in Paris of Bismarck and Wilhelm I, 1871
CUL, KF.3.10, p. 58

The virtual exhibition gives a glimpse of Paris under siege, through the role of women, who often carried the burden of dealing with penury and food shortages, and helped in the war effort, working as nurses, or even volunteering to form battalions of female soldiers. They were also blamed for their frivolity and treachery…

Morsabeau (Eugène Rosambeau), “Les Boucheries”, 1870, CUL, KF.3.11, p. 17

We look at how the cartoonists depicted the transition from the Second French Empire to the Third Republic, divided between the moderate Thiers government, based in Versailles, and the more radical and progressive members of the Paris Commune, established in the spring of 1871… Here is the link to the virtual exhibition.

Adolphe Thiers (Head of the Republican government) as a cameleon
lighting the fire of the Paris Commune… Le Lampion, March 1871, CUL, KF.3.10, p. 168

Finally, don’t forget the talk ‘Allons enfants de la patrie’: Children and the Wars of 1870-71, Thursday 31 March, 5-6 pm in the Milstein room. We have a couple of spaces left for a tour of the library’s Historical printing room led by its curator Colin Clarkson before the event: if you are interested please get in touch (french@lib.cam.ac.uk)!

Irene Fabry-Tehranchi

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