The Cartoon Emperor

The Impact of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte on European Comic Art, 1848–1870

in European Comic Art
Author:
Richard Scully University of New England rscully@une.edu.au

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Louis Napoleon Bonaparte (1808-1873), one-time President of the Second French Republic (1848-1852) and Emperor of the French (as Napoleon III, 1852-1870) exercised a profound effect on European cartoonists and the comic art they produced during his lifetime. As a real historical personality, Louis Napoleon feared the power of the cartoon to make him appear ridiculous and instituted one of the most effective and heavy-handed regimes of censorship of comic art in all European history. Beyond the boundaries of the French Empire, he pressured neighbouring states to protect his image in similar fashion, but in Britain and Germany and beyond, the cartoon Napoleon III became not only ubiquitous in the satirical press, but also served as a powerful touchstone for emerging national identities. The real Louis Napoleon's political and military influence was felt throughout Europe for over two decades, but his cartoon self was even more of a European phenomenon. Usually studied within national contexts, the 'Cartoon Emperor' needs to be studied transnationally in order fully to grasp his importance for developments in European history, as in European comic art.

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