Source 15 - working class slavery

This cartoon compares working class 'slavery' in the UK with slavery in the West Indies. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, many people regarded Caribbean slavery as comparable with the bondage of peasants and serfs in many European countries. Serfdom was found in east Europe and particularly in Russia, where serfs could be bought and sold, exploited and oppressed by their owners. In France also there were 140,000 peasants before the 1789 revolution freed them.The enlightened thinkers of the late 18th century, looked at the economic systems around them and condemned any kind of bondage. But freedom from bondage did not necessarily bring economic prosperity. Many of those freed were stuck in a poverty trap - having to do poorly paid and insecure work for the same landowners they had previously served. In the 1820s and 1830s the conditions of Irish peasants were often compared with slave conditions in the British Caribbean.
  • What does this image suggest are the political issues of the time?
  • Look carefully at each of the figures in the cartoon. What do you notice about the group on the left? How does this group contrast to that on the right?
  • What do you think is the opinion of the man in the centre of the cartoon?
  • What do you think is the aim of this cartoon?

Taken from: The Looking Glass: Political caricature Annual
Author / Creator: unknown
Publisher: T. McLean, London
Date: 1832
Copyright: By permission of the British Library Board
Shelfmark: P.P.5369