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).
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…
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 thelinkto the virtual exhibition.
As part of the Cambridge Festival 2022 programme, you can now book a place to attend a talk exploring the representations of French children during the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune. It will take place on Thursday 31 March from 5 to 6 pm in the Milstein room. We will be using literary and visual material from a historical collection of caricatures that will be on display at Cambridge University Library from 10 March to 7 May 2022.
From September 1870 to May 1871, the siege of Paris by the Prussians was followed by a civil war which opposed the radical left-wing members of the Paris Commune to the more moderate Republicans leading the French government. The French military defeat, the hardships of life under prolonged sieges, and the political experiments of the Paris Commune –which ended in a massacre–, had a profound impact on the daily lives of Parisian people and especially children.
Their perspective is reflected in the works of writers such as Alphonse Daudet and Guy de Maupassant. In Paris, this fuelled the production of a flurry of caricatures which circulated widely, often disseminated by the illustrated press. They portray children as victims of the war as well as privileged witnesses of the historical events unfolding around them. If children are often used as beacons of hope, torchbearers for the progressive aims of the Commune, they are also invested with the ideology of revenge against the Germans…
We are also delighted that a long awaited display of the Franco-Prussian caricatures, featuring, among others, Emperors Napoleon III and Wilhelm I, and Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, will take place from 10 March to 7 May 2022 in one of the Royal enclosures on the first floor of the University Library. Members of the University need to bring their blue card. External visitors can sign in and get a lanyard from the Reader Services Desk in the entrance hall, in order to come and see the small exhibition. If you cannot make it in person, here is a link to the virtual exhibition!
The digitised collection of Cambridge caricatures of the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune (KF.3.9-14) is the subject of a new film featuring the University Library’s historical printing presses and produced by the Digital Content Unit.
Look out for the forthcoming exhibition on the first floor of the University Library!
It will feature satirical representations of the defeated French Emperor Napoleon III, and of the victorious German Emperor Wilhelm I and his Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.
Six large volumes of around 1100 caricatures of 1870-71 (KF.3.9-14), digitised by Cambridge Digital Content Unit, with funding by Cambridge Digital Humanities, have just been made available on our Digital Library. This digitisation was enabled through a research project coinciding with the 150th anniversary of the Franco-Prussian war and focusing on collections of French and German caricatures produced at the time which were brought to the UK shortly afterwards. While beginning to investigate the 1870-71 caricatures collection, I wondered about the role and evidence for the contribution of the bookseller Frederick Justen (1832-1906), who we know played a key role in assembling and bringing to the UK several collections of 1870-71 caricatures (see the articles by Daniels, 2005 and Müller, 2011-12).
Last year I catalogued a few dusty old French books found in the University Library tower. Among them was an interesting four-flap folder containing Les affiches de la Commune : Paris – Versailles – La province, du 18 mars au 27 mai 1871, a collection of poster facsimiles published in 1874, just a few years after their production (now at 8001.b.205). I discovered that this item was the second part of a series entitled Les Murailles politiques françaises, depuis le 18 juillet 1870 jusqu’au 25 mai 1871. Affiches françaises et allemandes. Part 1, published in 1873 was La Guerre, La Commune – Paris, Province. Part 3, published in 1875, was Les Murailles d’Alsace-Lorraine: Metz, Sarreguemines, Strasbourg, Haguenau, Saverne, Nancy, etc. Cambridge University Library did not have these two other volumes of the set, but did hold two closely related publications.