Published online by Cambridge University Press: 03 June 2021
The aim of this essay is to trace the history of an idea through a series of mutations over a span of about one hundred years. Much of the material is taken from literary sources because it is in these that the potent force of the idea of a national character is most frequently and most memorably realized and it is in the nineteenth century that it becomes a stereotype. The caricaturing of national types was an important instrument of propaganda warfare during and after the French Revolution; the brilliant and savage tradition of Rowlandson and Gillray was carried on through the century, becoming more and more closely bound up with the development of the popular (finally the yellow) press.
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