Rude Britannia

Rude Britannia: A History Most Satirical, Bawdy, Lewd and Offensive

“Series exploring British traditions of satire and bawdy and lewd humour begins in the early 18th century and finds in Georgian Britain a nation openly, gloriously and often shockingly rude.

It includes a look at the graphic art of Hogarth, Gillray, Rowlandson and George Cruikshank and the rude theatrical world of John Gay and Henry Fielding. Singer Lucie Skeaping helps show the Georgian taste for lewd and bawdy ballads, and there is a dip into the literary tradition of rude words via the poetry of Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift and Lord Byron, and Laurence Sterne’s novel Tristram Shandy.”

“Europeans have always thought the British a peculiarly cussed and impolite people, and from the eighteenth century onwards the British have enjoyed a unique liberty to earn that reputation. In the eighteenth century even the greatest were satirised with venom – royal family included.

Prosecutions for libel were few, and the ideals of ‘English liberty’ were thought to distinguish Britain from more absolutist and censoring countries, so most satirists got away with it. Although this great tradition was weakened in the ‘respectable’ nineteenth century, the tradition bequeathed by satirists like the writer Jonathan Swift or caricaturists like James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson, and the young George Cruikshank has lasted into our own day.

Professor Vic Gatrell – Historian and Author of ‘City of Laughter: Sex and Satire in Eighteenth Century London’.”

The power of visual culture! See the BBC’s Rude Britannia Website (where you can catch up on the first programme, and get ready for the next).