The European Enlightenment

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William Hogarth

William Hogarth, Beating Hemp into Rope, from The Harlot's Progress

The Harlot's Progress is a series of engravings telling the tale of a young woman who comes to London as a poor woman, suffers economic humiliation, becomes pregnant, falls into prostitution, and eventually dies of disease. In this engraving, Hogarth gives a portrait of a hemp factory and the labor conditions that women suffered under in seventeenth and eighteenth century pre-industrial Europe. Many industries hired mainly women; the factories were hot and dirty and the labor, as seen here, was difficult and back breaking. To the left of the main character is the shop steward who carries a whip to beat the women into working harder.
Public domain. From Thomas Macaulay, The History of England , (London: Macmillan, 1913).
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William Hogarth, The Idle Prentice Executed at Tyburn

Hogarth did a series of prints, Industry and Idleness , to illustrate the emerging capitalist ideology of work and self-discipline. In the series, the disciplined apprentice goes on to a materially comfortable existence while the idle apprentice ends up hanged for highway robbery. The idle apprentice is only seen here in his coffin; he's been cut down from the gibbet in the background. What Hogarth is interested in portraying is the sea of humanity that has come to view the hanging—executions were among the most popular entertainments in seventeenth and eighteenth century England. We have here quite literally a whole crowd of idlers—some are eating, some are stealing, a group of boys are overturning a fruit cart, and so on. This is in general how poverty and the bulk of the population was regarded—lazy, idle, and undisciplined. Poverty and crime in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were not regarded as social problems, but as individual moral failures. While the print series shows that the life of poverty and crime of the idle apprentice are a result of his moral decay, this last print essentially argues that this moral decay (and poverty and crime) are the common lot of the lower and lower middle class populations.
Public domain. From Thomas Macaulay, The History of England , (London: Macmillan, 1913).
To include a browser-sized version of this picture in your multimedia projects, make a link to http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~dee/GRAPHICS/GALLERY/HOGARTH/IND1S.JPG


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1997, Richard Hooker
Updated 1-25-98