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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Imaging the body politics : the social and symbolic spaces of citizenship in Maxwell’s History of the Irish Rebellion Mewburn, Charity Elizabeth


This thesis examines a particular and highly contested representation of Irishness in relation to the national polity that circulated in mid-nineteenth century Britain and continued to enjoy currency through altered readings during the remainder of the century. The focus for this study is William Hamilton Maxwell's History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798: with Memoirs of the Union and Emmett's Insurrection in 1803. Issued in serial form beginning in 1844, with illustrations by artist and caricaturist George Cruikshank, the work was published as a bound volume in 1845. The partnership on this project of a popular writer known primarily for the publication of gentlemen's adventures and amateur histories of British military exploits in the Napoleonic Wars, together with the artist Cruikshank, the celebrated London illustrator of, among other works, Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, suggests an unusual approach to the representation of so-called "serious" history. This thesis explores the complex set of factors that gave the History of the Irish Rebellion its particular verbal and visual form. These include: the innovative and unconventional publishing and marketing strategies associated with the initial issuing of the work as an illustrated serial; mid-century debates over predominantly Catholic Irish calls for repeal of the Union forged in 1800 between Ireland and Britain; and current anxieties about working-class agitation around issues of representation and franchise. In particular, this study focusses on Cruikshank's twenty-one illustrations for Maxwell's work, assessing their rhetorical strategies both in relation to the text's concern with Ireland, both historically and in the present, and crucially, with these images' more subtle evocations of political concerns within Britain itself in the mid-1840's. I argue that by representing the Irish Catholic peasant as historic violator of the British social body, Cruikshank's illustrations, together with the text, worked to construct a particular image of responsible citizenship, one that asserted the patriarchal and classed values deemed essential to the modern nation state.

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