Sunday, January 4, 2009

Welcome Gentle Readers!

"History shall be kind to me, for I intend to write it." -- Winston Churchill

When one first mentions the word "history", what dread associations it evokes! Agonizing AP tests, lists of dates, dead people who once upon a time did something that has nothing to do with you, hours of boredom, a particularly hated teacher--

Ah, say I. Not so.

History is, quite frankly, funny.

Somehow or other we have lost this, and ignored the satires of Gillray in favor of the dramatic formal portraits hung in the better class of museums. History is generally supposed to be objective, by the combining as many subjective sources as possible in order to create a better picture of the events. I started this blog with the intent to point out the humor in history, or, at least, the period of history I like best. To begin with, let us begin with an introduction to the man whose name graces the title of this blog.

James Gillray is a SWM, political cartoonist and caricaturist, famed for popularizing the Napoleon-is-an-angry-midget stereotype and for managing to mock pretty much every major political figure from the 1780s to the 1810s. He likes wit, watching the high drama of English political life and exploiting 18th century England's comprable freedom of expression.

Seeks SWF with a printing press and the ability to bail him out of jail (though he hasn't been to prison yet!). After 1797, you can rest easy, ladies! Suggar-daddy's got a pension from the government to stop making George III look stupid, not that he actually let that stop him (though he obligingly mostly mocks the French instead). French ladies need not apply, as James Gillray's daddy lost an arm to the French during the Seven Years' War, and James Gillray's got a grudge against those demmed Frogs even greater than your average Brit.

Though his violent anti-French sentiments and some of his poitical viewpoints have this Amateur Historian raising her eyebrows, Gillray's contributions to political satire are invaulable. He was the first person to regurlarly and blatantly mock the royal family (thus humanizing them in accordance with Enlightenment ideas) and his changing views are in many ways a microcosm of British sentiment. The Terror during the French Revolution appalled him and turned his former, somewhat liberal views into reactionary conservatism.

He's guaranteed to make you laugh, and then draw an insulting picture of your date afterwards. So, any takers?

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