The rude expert's view - Professor Vic Gatrell
Europeans have always thought the British a peculiarly cussed and impolite people, and from the 18th century onwards the British have enjoyed a unique liberty to earn that reputation. In the 18th century even the greatest were satirised with venom - royal family included.
Prosecutions for libel were few, and the ideals of 'English liberty' were thought to distinguish Britain from more absolutist and censoring countries, so most satirists got away with it. Although this great tradition was weakened in the 'respectable' 19th century, the tradition bequeathed by satirists like the writer Jonathan Swift or caricaturists like James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson, and the young George Cruikshank has lasted into our own day.
Professor Vic Gatrell, historian and author of City of Laughter: Sex and Satire in 18th Century London.
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