John Bull and Bonaparte, from a collection of material relating to the fear of a French invasion


This ballad sheet published by Rudolph Ackermann in the early 19th century is typical of the many nationalistic songs and images published at the time warning of an impending French invasion. The image depicts the stereotype of a stout English John Bull character squaring up to a miniature Napoleon across the English Channel. Bull stands proud with his oak stick in hand ready to thrash the French invader, glaring at the spindly Napoleon who is depicted comically swamped by his enormous cocked hat and over-sized sword. The words of the ballad are set to a Scottish folk song that defiantly lampoons French imperial ambition.

Loyalist ballads were printed in their thousands at the time of the Napoleonic wars and sold on street corners or print shops for only a penny or two. Patriotic publications such as this were responsible for whipping up a distinctly anti-French sentiment among the British people. At the peak of the invasion threat around 400,000 volunteers and militiamen stood ready to fight Napoleon’s forces should they attempt to cross the channel.

Full title:
John Bull and Bonaparte from [Loyal and patriotic hand-bills, songs, addresses, etc. on the threatened invasion of Great Britain by Buonaparte.]
estimated 1803, probably London
Print / Image
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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