Thursday, December 24, 2009

Satire in Journalism: La Caricature

Political caricature flourished in the second quarter of nineteenth-century France. This was owing to a convergence of factors, including the use of lithography that allowed printers and artists to produce prints more rapidly and inexpensively, the proliferation of professional journalism, and the reintroduction of censorship laws during the reign of Louis-Philippe.

In July of 1830, the citizens of France reacted against the repressive policies of Charles X (Louis XVIII’s successor), forcing the last of the Bourbon kings to abdicate his throne. In an effort to preserve the monarchy a group of political leaders appointed the duc d’Orléans as the new monarch with the mission of defending the Charter of 1830, a revised constitution that guaranteed the rights and freedoms of French citizens and the abolition of censorship laws. The duc d’Orléans assumed the title of Louis-Philippe and was called the “Citizen King.” or Le Roi Bourgeois. He was the only French Monarch to come to power as a result of a popular uprising against another monarch.

La Caricature, a weekly subscription-based journal, became one the most famous French satirical newspapers of the nineteenth century. Through a series of satirical drawings and lithographs, many of them hand-colored by well-known caricaturists and writers of the period, La Caricature relentlessly attacked the July Monarchy (as the administration was known) and Louis Philippe specifically for failing to uphold the Charter of 1830 and the abolition of the censorship laws.

In an effort to silence Charles Philipon (1800–1862, sole owner of La Caricature) , the French government repeatedly brought Philipon to trial, seized numerous publications and lithographs which they deemed to be seditious, and imposed excessive fines on Philipon. The court cases were widely followed by the French and reported by La Caricature and other prominent newspapers.

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