Monday, February 22, 2010

National Characters: Maps and Stereotypes (1869)

The text and image source for this entry is

Here is a series of anthropomorphic (humanoid) maps of the various nations of mid-19th C. Europe. As the idea of nationhood develops it employs the stereotype: the abstracted or idealized person representing the characteristics accepted as typical of a certain nationality.
This particular series was created in England in 1869. Can we learn anything about the "English point of view" regarding the continental peoples?

Geographical Fun: Being Humourous Outlines of Various Countries was first published in London by the firm of Hodder and Stoughton in 1869. The atlas consists of twelve maps of European countries; each with a unique national stereotype created by the author based on the outline and shape of the country. Each image is accompanied by a short verse describing the authors creation.
In the introduction to the atlas, the author, William Harvey, writing under the pseudonym Aleph, described his intention in creating the atlas: "It is believed that illustrations of Geography may be rendered educational, and prove of service to young Scholars who commonly think Globes and Maps but wearisome aids to knowledge...... If these geographical puzzles excite the mirth of children, the amusement of the moment may lead to the profitable curiosity of youthful students and embue the mind with a healthful taste for foreign lands."To read the full introduction, please click here
The resulting fanciful caricatures include England in the form of Queen Victoria; Scotland as a gallant Piper struggling through the bogs; Wales in the form of Owen Glendowr; Ireland as a Peasant, happy in her baby's smile; France as an Empress of cooks, fashions, and the dance; Spain and Portugal joined in lasting amity; Italy as a revolutionary figure complete with liberty cap; Prussia in the personages of Friedrich Wilhelm and Prime Minister Bismarck; Germany as a lady dancing; Holland and Belgium as female figures who represent perfect art made grand; Denmark as a female figure with ice skates; and Russia as the classic bear.


For Shakespeare's Prince, and the Princess of wales,
To England dear. Her royal spirit quails;
From skating faint, she rests upon the snow;
Shrinking from unclean beasts that grin below.


Beautiful England, - on her Island throne,
Grandly she rules, - with half the world her own;
From her vast empire the sun ne'er departs:
She reigns a Queen - Victoria, Queen of Hearts.

A hook-nosed lady represents fair France,
Empress of cooks, of fashions, and the dance.
Her flatt'ring glass declares that vict'ry pwer,
Beauty, wealth, arts, are her imperial dower.


Lo! studious Germany, in her delight,
At coming glories, shewn by second sight,
And on her visioned future proudly glancing,
Her joy expresses by a lady dancing.

Dame Holland, trick'd out in her gala clothes,
And Master Belgium, with a punchy nose;
Seem on the map to represent a land,
By patriot worth, and perfect art made grand.

Thou model chieftain - born in modern days
Well may thy gallant acts claim classic praise.
Uncompromising friend of liberty!
Thy photograph ennobles Italy!

His Majesty of Prussia - grim and old
Sadowa's King - by needle guns made bold;
With Bismark of the royal conscience, keeper,
In dreams political none wiser - deeper


Peter, and Catherine, and Alexander,
Mad Paul, and Nicholas, poor shadows wander
Out in the cold; while Emperor A. the Second
In Eagles, Priests, and Bears supreme is reckoned.

A gallant piper, stuggling through the bogs,
His wind bag broken, wearing his clay clogs;
Yet, strong of heart, a fitting emblem makes
For Scotland - land of heroes and of cakes.

These long divided nations soon may be,
By Prim's grace, joined in lasting amity.
And ladies fair - if King Fernando rules,
Grow grapes in peace, and fatten their pet mules.

Geography bewitch'd - Owen Glendowr,
In Bardic grandeur, looks from shore to shore,
And sings King Arthur's long, long pedigree,
And cheese and leks, and knights of high degree.

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