Revolting peasants: Southern Italy, Ireland and cartoons in comparative perspective, 1860-1882

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Peasants in general, and rural rebels in particular, were mercilessly ridiculed in the satirical cartoons that proliferated in European cities from the mid-nineteenth century. There was more to these images than the age-old hostility of the townspeople for the peasant, and this article comparatively explores how cartoons of southern Italian brigands and rural Irish agitators helped shape a liberal version of what was modern by identifying what was not: the revolting peasant who engaged in "unmanly" violence, lacked self-reliance, and was in thrall to Catholic clergymen. During periods of unrest, distinctions between brigands, rebels, and the rural populations as a whole were not always clear in cartoons. Comparison suggests that derogatory images of peasants from southern Italy and Ireland held local peculiarities, but they also drew from transnational stereotypes of rural poverty that circulated widely due to the rapidly expanding European publishing industry. While scholarly debates inspired by postcolonial perspectives have previously emphasized processes of othering between the West and East, between the metropole and colony, it is argued here that there is also an internal European context to these relationships based on ingrained class and gendered prejudices, and perceptions of what constituted the centre and the periphery.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-35
Number of pages35
JournalInternational Review of Social History
Issue number1
Early online date23 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2015


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