Cartoon Maps - Politics and Satire The Beauty of Maps


Cartoon Maps - Politics and Satire

The series concludes by delving into the world of satirical maps. How did maps take on a new form as devices for humour, satire or storytelling?


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Transcript


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The British Library in London is home to a staggering 4.5 million maps.

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Mysterious and beautiful, these rarely seen treasures are much

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more than just two dimensional depictions of a physical world.

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Among its most quixotic, strange and colourful treasures

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are the world's first mass produced satirical maps,

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maps that used country boundaries to reinforce national stereotypes.

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The form of a country, the map of a country,

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can have an enormous emotive force.

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Visually striking, poking fun at the high and mighty,

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at countries and their leaders, these maps came from a time

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when nations were still working out who they were.

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People were asking, what does it mean to be British?

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What does it mean to be French?

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What does it mean to be German or Italian?

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These extraordinary maps did more than just poke fun.

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They made politics visual.

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They helped create national identity.

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And they ushered in a modern world

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where mass media and political spin went hand in hand.

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Europe in the 1870's was a place of political tension.

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Countries vied with one another for territory and influence.

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Nationalism was on the rise.

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Nationalism was a movement which grew out of the Napoleonic wars.

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The countries which had laboured

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under Napoleonic rule emerged from this period

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with a distinct desire to have an identity of their own.

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And to defend that identity.

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For Britain, it was the great era of maps.

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The Ordnance Survey was mapping the nation in almost microscopic detail.

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While the Empire and wars in Europe made maps indispensable

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for understanding Britain and its place in the world.

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By that time the shapes of Europe, in particular,

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were pretty well known.

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The 19th century had seen a huge explosion in map availability.

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Papers were full of maps, books were full of maps,

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atlases were getting published.

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The base of knowledge about the shape of our lands,

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and all the rest of it, was already there.

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One British Map maker, Frederick Rose,

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was determined to give that knowledge a whole new twist.

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In 1877, he made the first of the world's mass-produced satire maps.

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They impart opinion and information all at the same time,

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in a way that is visually very striking and quite beautiful.

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They are very much a product of their age.

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Rose was doing these maps at the zenith of the British Empire.

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And it shored up the Victorian sense

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of who we are and our place in the world.

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Entitled, A Serio-Comic Map Of Europe For The Year 1877,

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Rose's map captures a moment of anxiety for Europe.

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The so-called Eastern question,

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the fear of Russia, pictured as a giant octopus.

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The map was meant to inform, to entertain, and to shock.

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And it still does.

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We know exactly how people responded to it visually

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because people are continuing to respond to it visually.

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There's the case of the Russian academic recently,

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who was incandescent with rage at the fact that it had been reproduced

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because he felt that the use of an octopus to portray his country

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was a monstrous distortion of the true nature of his country.

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This map has been insulting people, and amusing people in equal measure,

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for the last 130 years.

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The tentacles of the Russian octopus stretch out

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over the much of the continent with an alarming and malign reach.

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So all of it links together in some way and, really,

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what you have are a series of interlinked narratives,

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linking up with each other right the way across.

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Moving over the whole is the Russian octopus,

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with tentacles going out in every direction.

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The idea of the octopus does seem to be Rose's own, as far as I know.

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I've seen earlier depictions of Russia as a bear

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or as a ravening wolf in caricature maps like this

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going back to the Crimean War.

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But as soon as you're looking at the detail and Rose's opinion

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of what's going on in various countries in Europe at the time,

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you're sucked right in.

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Rose uses the physical shape of each nation

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to create a cartoon stereotype.

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Here's a grumpy looking Ireland with 'home rule' on her mind.

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Italy is a young woman,

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because the nation had only been in existence for a few years.

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Germany is a fierce looking Prussian, armed to the teeth.

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Spain, indifferent to events in Europe, is asleep.

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But it's that grey menace of the octopus that dominates.

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This image gave, if you like, the opponents of Russia a focus.

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For instance, it's strangling Poland.

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Poland then formed part of Russia.

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It's in the process of strangling Bulgaria.

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And it was, in fact, the Russian invasion of Bulgaria

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that provoked the great crisis which very nearly led to a First World War

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something like 30 years before it actually occurred.

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It is such a convenient thing because people do recognise their own country.

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The form of a country, the map of a country,

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can have an enormous emotive force.

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It resonates.

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It's a time of great political upheaval and uncertainty,

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and I suppose a slight lightness of touch

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is a good way of bringing that home to people.

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It's not only the octopus that's important.

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You've got other little side scenes.

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For instance, one very small touch is that the Turkish Empire

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is shown as a Turk who lies prostrate beneath the octopus,

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and the golden watch of the Turk is Constantinople

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which everybody thought was the main objective of Russia's expansion.

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If you look, even in small detail at Belgium,

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you've got the King of Belgium, Leopold II,

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who was making a fortune out of running the Congo as its private fief.

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And he's there, counting his money.

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So, wherever you look at the map,

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you have references to the current situation.

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Even if, thanks to the mastery of the design,

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the eye is at first drawn to the main conflict, which is Russia.

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It's really clearly seen in the map itself that tension was building up in Europe.

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For example, France is checking its weapons,

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getting ready for something.

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Austria-Hungary, the big empire,

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actually you can see that Hungary

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is depicted as a man who is really getting angry,

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he wants to get at Russia.

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Who is held back by a young woman, Austria.

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You can actually see that everybody is getting ready for something

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but they are not quite sure what will come next.

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For Rose's audience, this was map and news bulletin rolled into one.

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And the British viewer could gain comfort

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from the stalwart figure of John Bull.

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Resolute, solid and reliable.

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Often, when all the other characters representing all the other countries

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are scrapping and fighting, or kipping on the job, John Bull,

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up there in the top left corner,

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is always looking remarkable and in full control of everything.

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On all his maps, we're always looking terribly smug and...

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gazing benignly on the rest of the unfortunates

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in the world, who haven't have the good grace to be born British.

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Rose's work was revolutionary.

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He made politics visual through maps.

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He defined national stereotypes.

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And for the first time in Britain's history,

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he brought the world of political satire to a mass audience.

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It was a breakthrough in printing technology

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that made it all possible.

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We could almost call this the first map for the masses,

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because its produced using chroma-lithography

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which had two important features.

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First of all, it was produced en masse, almost infinite copies could be produced.

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Secondly, it could be produced in colour.

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It cost virtually nothing.

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It quite literally spread like wildfire

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and it had an enormous impact.

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In the 1870's,

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there were 250 lithographic printers in London alone.

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Today, this Victorian warehouse in south London

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is home to one of the last remaining traditional printers

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in the whole of Britain.

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Using the same lithography process

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that was used to make the Rose original,

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Megan Fishpool and Colin Gale are printing the octopus map,

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probably the first to be printed in over a century.

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In the years before Rose, each colour element had to be

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laboriously drawn out and printed from cumbersome stone plates.

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But photography had transformed the process.

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Historically, this is right at the cross over point

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where they started moving from stone lithography to plate lithography.

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Plates have got the advantage.

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Obviously, they're cheaper, lighter,

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more portable and faster to print.

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What we've got here, it's the modern day equivalent, it's photo sensitive aluminium.

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The plate's been exposed using ultraviolet light

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to a drawing which is made on clear acetate.

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I'm pouring on liquid developer and literally developing out the image.

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While the plates are being prepared

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to be printed, you mix the colour.

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There are four colours and a black in this particular image.

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And all of the colours are actually made by hand from scratch.

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To our 21st century eyes, the process may look laborious,

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but in 1877 this was right at the cutting edge of new technology.

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Basically, it evolved the concept of quantity.

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And so, a couple of printers working together could print

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a phenomenal amount of imagery in very short period of time.

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This is the plate for the main body of the octopus.

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Which is going to be printed in a transparent grey.

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We need a separate plate for each image, and each colour is printed separately.

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All the pinks are printed and all the yellows are printed,

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all the blues are printed,

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and that's the way the image is built up.

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Five plates in total for this particular picture.

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The new process took advantage of two burgeoning technologies.

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One was photography, allowing plates to be made without drawing.

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The other was chemistry.

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Lithography is very simple chemistry.

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It's the fact that oil and water don't mix.

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The image is greasy and attracts ink.

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And the non-image area is kept damp and repels the greasy ink.

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Colour printing would've been very, very expensive,

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only open to rich people.

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This is a way of reaching the mass market very, very cheaply, very, very quickly.

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High volume and low cost brought maps like Rose's to a new audience.

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It also revolutionised the map business.

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Previously, mapmakers took huge financial risks

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producing their costly product, and often went bust.

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Rose's maps proved hugely popular, and highly profitable for his publisher G. W. Bacon.

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George W. Bacon was actually known

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for making maps of London and the surroundings,

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for example, for biking trips.

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But then, on the side, he decides to start publishing these cartoon maps.

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I think he was a rather wily businessman

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because after the first map of Frederick Rose in 1877 was published,

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fairly quickly after that there was a second edition of the map already in the same year.

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It sort of gives us a clue that there was business in these kinds of maps.

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I can imagine Bacon taking the most immense pleasure

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in putting these cartoon maps in the window of his shop

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because he liked eye-catching, and those certainly are.

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And I think that is what Bacon is about.

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It is about mass appeal,

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selling maps to people who didn't even know they wanted maps.

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Satire maps were sold on street corners,

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they appeared in newspapers, in schools, in offices,

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in ordinary homes.

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What had once been costly, luxury items were now throwaway objects in a mass market.

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The modern world of map publishing had begun.

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It's always quite exciting as a printmaker.

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We've got all the colour layers down now

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and until you put the final black layer on, you don't know what it's going to look like.

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It's always kind of a magic moment, just peeling it off and seeing the final result for the first time.

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There you go. Beautiful. Spot-on register.

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Perfect.

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In the spring of 1880,

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Rose turned his sharp-edged, satirical lens on British politics.

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It was general election time, with the Liberals

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seeking to topple a Tory government that many saw as corrupt,

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warmongering and dishonest.

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Uniquely, Rose produced two satire maps, one for each party.

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The maps have lain in the British Library's basement for well over a century

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and were only recently rediscovered by Peter Barber.

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Part of the fun of being a curator is that you do have almost unrestricted access to your collections.

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I mean, there is nothing more exciting than going through a file of maps

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and seeing something you've never seen before and you're pretty sure that nobody else has seen before.

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It really is great to find something that is really new,

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and to look at the expressions of surprise on faces of people who equally have never seen them.

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And, sometimes, the things can be really, really important because they can change perceptions.

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They can provide evidence which previously had been lacking.

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Rose's octopus maps are very familiar and, as you can see,

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he's signed his name down here,

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well, under his signature, Fred W. Rose,

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we've got the "Author of the Octopus Map of Europe".

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It's absolutely lovely to see something completely fresh and completely new.

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And I know it's been lying in the vaults of the British Library

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for the last 130 years or so, but I'd never seen them before.

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I had never even seen these reproduced

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in any publications.

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In the pro-Conservative image, Disraeli, the Prime Minister,

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is a heroic figure,

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stabbing his enemies with the sword of patriotism.

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In the pro-Liberal map, Rose turns it all around.

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This time, Gladstone is the hero,

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while Disraeli is depicted as a corrupt despot,

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his subservient cabinet kneeling at his feet.

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Here you've got King Jingo,

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Benjamin Disraeli, being unseated, but it's interesting to see what he's being unseated by.

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And it's something which echoes right the way down to the present time.

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You've got here "broken promises".

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You've got there "harassed interests",

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and finally, and most important,

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"public opinion", which is unseating him.

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If you notice carefully, he's sitting on top of the ballot box.

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It's a marvellous allegory of the electoral process,

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very, very well portrayed.

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The burning issues of the election have an eerily contemporary ring to them.

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Britain was fighting a prolonged war in Afghanistan.

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And the national debt was at its highest in living memory.

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You have the comment that Gladstone, who's depicted as a Highlander,

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has taken on some clothes and some arms,

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which he has taken from the stiffening corpses

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of English soldiers in Afghanistan.

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We have the references to public expenditure.

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And also to the general economic state of the country

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because you do get this mention of public debt de profundis.

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And at the moment, if that isn't a key question, nothing is.

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It's a marvellous way of dramatising issues

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which are matters of debate, and dramatising them in a way,

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with a clarity which a verbal debate or a written debate

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can't really bring to the fore.

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Rose's legacy lives on today,

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in the work of graphic artists like Peter Brookes,

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political cartoonist at The Times.

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Political cartoons are odd things anyway, to be honest.

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A political cartoon to me,

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a definition of it,

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is kneeing somebody in the groin with a smile, if you like.

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There are so many instances of things that other people have done

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that lodge in your subconscious. You're aware of them.

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You like them. You like what Rose does because it's within your professional territory, so to speak.

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It's the same sort of thing as you do.

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You have to be able to recognise symbols,

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which your general reader can be familiar with.

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And maps, if anything, are symbols.

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Before Rose, there were people producing maps,

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political commentary through maps, like Gillray.

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And a particular one I love which is George III and the Bum-Boats,

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where George III is defecating the fleet against the French.

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A wonderful image. So wonderfully scatological, so vulgar,

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it makes you laugh just because it is, you know!

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It appeals to my ribald sense of humour, if you like.

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And you laugh, but the point behind it, when you're fighting France,

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is obviously serious as well.

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Peter Brookes' own work owes much to Gillray and Rose,

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a mark of the abiding political power of the satire map.

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This Spectator cover, again uses that familiar shape of Britain.

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And the article was about, as you can read there,

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"Yobland, Our Yobland."

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The idea of Wales being the 2 hands,

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Norfolk's his bum, obviously, and his trainers,

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you can manage to make the outline of the West Country.

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The only thing I think is wrong about it

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is that Ireland really doesn't have a great deal to do with that.

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But to make it work, as a yob kicking an old lady,

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I'm afraid Ireland was used for that purpose.

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Well, I drew this for The Times immediately after

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the Continuity IRA murdered a policeman,

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having previously murdered two British soldiers

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a short while before that.

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And the idea was to show the Good Friday Agreement

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being shot to ribbons, basically.

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The outline of Ireland, it's a familiar image to people, you hope.

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And the shape is what does it.

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And then putting bullet-holes in with it as well,

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and the burn marks round it.

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To make up the idea.

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You may think, "Well, because they've been around for a long time,

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"what possible sort of...

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"enjoyment can come out of trotting out the same old stuff?"

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But it's not the same old stuff.

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First of all, the political situation is always different, by definition.

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And you're using the constant shape of something

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which people are familiar with.

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That makes it a different challenge, I think.

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Political crisis is also the subject of Rose's last satire map.

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Made in 1899,

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Angling In Troubled Waters depicts growing tensions in Europe.

0:23:590:24:05

In 1914, those tensions erupted

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into the bloodiest conflict the world had ever seen.

0:24:080:24:11

With war, satire maps took on a more savage tone than Rose had ever used.

0:24:130:24:18

But his legacy shines through.

0:24:190:24:21

Here's the octopus, his great creation,

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at the heart of a brooding anti-German French map of 1917.

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This vicious Russian satire map used the "hunger spider"

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to show the invidious influence of Russia's churches

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on the flagging revolution.

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And this map brings the story full circle.

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Made in 1941,

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the fascists of Vichy France savagely turned Rose's octopus idea

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against Britain itself.

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Well, this is an Axis cartoon

0:25:020:25:06

attacking British policy throughout the world

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during the Second World War.

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And it does so by resurrecting the octopus

0:25:110:25:14

that had been first seen nearly 70 years earlier.

0:25:140:25:18

And in this particular case,

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the octopus has been turned into Winston Churchill.

0:25:200:25:23

The tentacles of the British octopus

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are shown being cut in places which have had resonances for the French.

0:25:290:25:35

There was an allied attempt to seize Dakar in west Africa,

0:25:350:25:38

it didn't succeed.

0:25:380:25:39

There's a cut tentacle.

0:25:390:25:42

There's an attempt by the British to seize a French fleet

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at Mers El-Kebir.

0:25:450:25:46

There's another tentacle that's cut.

0:25:460:25:49

The French caption reads,

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"Confiance ses amputations se poursuivent methodiquement,"

0:25:500:25:55

which means,

0:25:550:25:57

"Have confidence, the amputations of its tentacles

0:25:570:26:02

"are being pursued in a methodical manner."

0:26:020:26:05

In other words, "You don't need to worry,

0:26:050:26:07

"soon there'll be no tentacles left

0:26:070:26:09

"and the octopus will be reduced

0:26:090:26:12

"to a dying mass of fish in Great Britain."

0:26:120:26:16

The image is crude and vicious.

0:26:170:26:21

All the subtlety and humour of Rose is gone.

0:26:210:26:24

This is the ultimate satire map,

0:26:240:26:27

from a time when politics had become a matter of life and death.

0:26:270:26:32

We're used to regarding Churchill

0:26:320:26:37

as a positively good thing

0:26:370:26:39

and I think it'll come as a shock to many people

0:26:390:26:41

to be reminded of the time when,

0:26:410:26:43

in many parts of the world, Churchill was regarded

0:26:430:26:47

as the embodiment of everything that was evil.

0:26:470:26:50

Because the incidental detail has been omitted,

0:26:570:27:01

you also omit a lot of the humour.

0:27:010:27:04

This is a very, very stark, unwitty,

0:27:040:27:07

attack on Winston Churchill

0:27:070:27:10

which is not intended to provoke any happy chuckles.

0:27:100:27:15

It does show just how powerful a map image can be.

0:27:160:27:21

And in a way which, I think, nowadays, people will understand

0:27:210:27:24

because the rendering of the map is modern,

0:27:240:27:27

it represents the Rose idea

0:27:270:27:32

reduced to its most negative essence.

0:27:320:27:37

The satire map has made an extraordinary journey

0:27:420:27:45

over a tumultuous century-and-a-half.

0:27:450:27:47

Rose's world of Victorian technology,

0:27:490:27:52

of John Bull and Empire, may seem far-distant.

0:27:520:27:56

But by combining maps,

0:27:560:27:58

mass media and political spin for the first time,

0:27:580:28:03

he left an enduring legacy.

0:28:030:28:05

One that testifies both to his own genius,

0:28:050:28:09

and to the extraordinary power, depth and beauty of maps themselves.

0:28:090:28:14

To explore the new world of digital mapping

0:28:200:28:23

and to find out more about the British Library Map Exhibition,

0:28:230:28:27

go to..

0:28:270:28:28

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:28:420:28:45

E-mail [email protected]

0:28:450:28:48

The series concludes by delving into the world of satirical maps. How did maps take on a new form, not as geographical tools, but as devices for humour, satire or storytelling?

Graphic artist Fred Rose perfectly captured the public mood in 1880 with his general election maps featuring Gladstone and Disraeli, using the maps to comment upon crucial election issues still familiar to us today. Technology was on the satirist's side, with the advent of high-speed printing allowing for larger runs at lower cost. In 1877, when Rose produced his Serio Comic Map of Europe at War, maps began to take on a new direction and form, reflecting a changing world.

Rose's map exploited these possibilities to the full using a combination of creatures and human figures to represent each European nation. The personification of Russia as a grotesque-looking octopus, extending its tentacles around the surrounding nations, perfectly symbolised the threat the country posed to its neighbours.


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