A History Most Satirical, Bawdy, Lewd and Offensive

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Episode 1 of 3

Duration: 1 hour

In the early 18th century, Georgian Britain was a nation openly, gloriously and often shockingly rude. This was found in the graphic art of Hogarth, Gillray, Rowlandson and George Cruikshank, and the rude theatrical world of John Gay and Henry Fielding. Singer Lucie Skeaping helps show the Georgian taste for lewd and bawdy ballads, and there is a dip into the literary tradition of rude words via the poetry of Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift and Lord Byron, and Laurence Sterne's novel Tristram Shandy.

  • The rude expert's view - Professor Vic Gatrell

    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.


Julian Rhind-Tutt
Alastair Laurence
Executive Producer
Michael Poole

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