Conflicts, Disputes and Protest in Pre-Modern Print and Visual Culture

From engravings capturing scenes of war and destruction, to posters campaigning for socio-political causes, or even copper plates exchanged between families to settle financial disagreements, this session seeks to explore the full range of scenarios in which the themes of conflict, dispute and protest were represented in, or negotiated by, prints and printing equipment in the pre-modern period.  

In times of controversy, dissent and upheaval, what agents and forces were influential in shaping the production, dissemination and encounters of such material? What contemporaneous responses, experiences and outcomes emerged as a result? Centring this session on the themes of conflict, dispute and protest broadens our understanding of the role played by print culture and raises questions about its potential for agency. We hope these explorations will offer fresh interpretations of a range of material examples and methodological approaches. 

We welcomed papers that explored the ways in which adversarial relationships between, but not limited to, ideas, individuals, networks, institutions, and nations were understood in, or shaped by, print culture. This session hopes to provide scholars the opportunity to compare methodologies, gain new insights, and establish synergies around the questions posed and the visual sources used to explore them.    

Session Convenors: 

Chiara Betti, School of Advanced Study, University of London,  

Marie Giraud, Queen Mary, University of London 


Katherine Parker, Queen Mary University of London 

Competitive collaboration: The production of geographic knowledge in Britain in the long-eighteenth century 

By the eighteenth century, the creation of cartographic materials—maps, charts, globes, and texts—depended on the critical compilation of data from a variety of sources. Access to these sources, and precisely how to assess and present sometimes confusing or partial information, often resulted in interpersonal, and international, conflict. This paper will characterize the production of geographic knowledge in the long-eighteenth century as a process of competitive collaboration. It will look at examples of this process in the context of one of the most contentious areas of delineation: the Pacific. There, print wars between sailor-authors, savants, geographers, and publishers combined with geopolitical events to mark the South Seas as a daunting, watery desert to be endured by Europeans. The paper will explore three examples to illustrate the mechanisms of competitive collaboration: the Dampier-Welbe pamphlet brawl (1707-1712), the eight-book dispute over the existence of a frozen strait between Christopher Middleton and Arthur Dobbs (1740s), and the decades-long debate over the integration of the findings of the chimerical Admiral de la Fonte on maps of North America (1750s-1770s). Together, these samples show how discussions of the contents and organization of printed objects come to carry water—in this case, the salty waters of the world’s largest ocean—in corollary discussions about personal reputation, corporate responsibility, the safety of navigation, and imperial expansion.  

Jonathan Trayner, Southampton Solent University 

Know Your Place?  Peasants and Soldiers as Political Actors in Sixteenth Century Prints 

This paper will examine the frontispiece woodcuts of two politico-religious pamphlets from Germany in the 1520s – An admonishment and lesson, as the Pope’s son goes to court a farmer and knight have risen again by Melchior Ramminger (1521) and Knappe’s imprint of A Beautiful Interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer by Diepold Peringer (1522).  Both images contain a depiction of a conversation between a peasant farmer and military figure:  In Ramminger’s case a mounted knight, in Knappe’s the peasant is addressing a mercenary Landsknecht.  Neither image has an illustrational relationship to the text, but both provide a contextualisation of the written material and can be considered to be a demonstration or articulation of the political agency of hitherto unconsidered groups – the rural commons and the lower strata of the imperial military hierarchy, both of whom were engaged in significant revolts not long after the pamphlets were produced.  These images will be compared to the wider genre of disputation texts/images (e.g. Hans Sachs, Disputation Between a Canon and a Shoemaker), and the general depictions of the peasant and the soldier in the art of this period.  Through this the effect these potentially inflammatory images had on their viewers will be examined; both those who identified with the figures depicted and their concerns and those who may have feared their appearance in the political arena.  

Holly Marsden, University of Winchester/Historic Royal Palaces 

 “Mary, Mary, quite contrary”: Mary II in print during the Glorious Revolution

In 1688, British parliamentarians wrote to Princess Mary in Holland, asking her to usurp her father in what has been labelled the ‘Glorious Revolution.’ This was after King James II’s conversion to Catholicism and the alleged birth of a new, Catholic, heir. This latter event became known as the warming-pan scandal, which was heavily represented in print culture that circulated Holland and Britain.  

This paper will explore the print culture documenting the controversial events leading up to Mary and her husband William of Orange’s ascent to co-rulership. A particular theme will be the distrust of women’s bodies after rumours spread that the birth of the new heir was cheated, believed by the future Mary II and her sister Anne. After James II was deposed, public anxiety over the new Stuart rulers still spread. Prints circulated that depicted William as an untrustworthy foreigner and Mary as a traitorous woman who had committed the ultimate sin against her family.  

Understanding the role of prints as propaganda sheds light on how visual and material culture functioned in 17th century Britain and Holland. The paper aims to highlight the tension between images disseminated by the crown and those created by the public in response, whether in support or against the monarchy. Unlike other scholarship focusing on this topic, the paper will use various methodologies to balance public perceptions of Mary II, as shown in her changing printed image, with her own voice, garnered from remaining letters and diaries.  

Huw Keene, University of Edinburgh 

Drawing from Print Culture: The Representation and Condemnation of War in Sixteenth-Century Domestic Music Performance 

In 1542 Zeghere van Male, a bourgeois merchant living in Bruges, finished making his own set of four partbooks – a format for recording music whereby each voice part is contained in its own manuscript. These partbooks were copied in van Male’s amateur hand, and they were used for domestic singing with friends. Today, van Male’s partbooks are well known to musicologists. However, they contain hundreds of drawings, also in van Male’s hand, that have hitherto not been considered – drawings that borrowed from print culture in their representation of war. 

My paper examines these drawings and asks how and why van Male utilised prints representing war in their making. Through codicological analysis of the partbooks – including the word-image-music relations that van Male devised when situating his drawings around staves – the meanings that arose from displacing printed images are considered. Particular attention is afforded to the ways in which prints representing landsknechts were utilised by van Male to highlight and criticise the offences of war. On folio 10v of the Bassus book, for example, van Male represents a procession of landsknechts (a subject taken from print culture) underneath a performance direction that reads ‘Benedictus non sunt’ or ‘they are not blessed’. This performance direction makes light of the fact that the Bassus has no music to sing for the Benedictus of the mass. But in its proximity to the drawing, it also underscores the landsknechts’ transgressions – a group who had a reputation in the Netherlands for looting and killing townspeople. 

Danielle Andréa Krikorian, University of Birmingham 

Lebanese Legacies: Conflicts in Pre-Modern Print and Visual Culture on Emir Fakher-El Din II 

The two centuries following the Ottoman invasion of Lebanon in 1516 were tumultuous and transformative in the Levantine world. The sultanate nominally ruled through the Ma’n dynasty, a prominent Druze family.1 Amidst these discords, Emir Fakher al-Din II succeeded his father as the muqaddam [leader] in Mount Lebanon, Beirut, and Sidon.2 The Ottoman war with Safavid Iran (1578-1590) and with Habsburg Austria (1603-1618) enabled him to strengthen and increase his semi-autonomous power.3 Fakher al-Din’s reign was turbulent, successful, and meaningful. It included conflict with the Ottoman authorities, the creation of a symbiotic Druze/Maronite relationship, protests, disputes, alliance and exile to Tuscany, the reestablishment of the Ma’ns, the battle of ‘Anjar, and his execution.4 These conflicts were chronicled, exchanged, and printed by Western and Eastern scholars from the 17th century onwards. Moreover, published engravings depict the Emir. Two such examples are an engraved printed portrait of Fakher al-Din in Eugène Roger’s book,5 and a rare engraving of the conflict/battle of ‘Anjar by Olfert Dapper.6 Regarded and admired unanimously as the founder of modern Lebanon, his legacy persists.7 This is important since Lebanese identity is divided by sectarianism. In this context, how do conflicts, disputes, and protests in Pre- Modern print and visual culture impact contemporaneous perceptions on history and identity? The paper will explore the role and agency of conflicts in print and visual culture (through the engravings and books) in creating the legacy of Fakher al-Dine and Lebanese identity. It will analyse convergence, production, aesthetics, narratives, migration, and legacies of unification. 

Urte Krass, University of Bern, Switzerland 

Making a Place of War and Sedition out of a Place Serving as a Safe Refuge for All…” A Broadsheet of a Street Fight between the Portuguese and the Spanish Ambassadors in Rome in 1642 

After Portugal broke away from the Iberian Union through the so-called Restoration of 1640, not only did the two former allies fight over their borders until 1668, but the conflict was also conducted very visibly in the field of pamphlets, treatises and leaflets, and this especially outside Iberia. In my lecture I would like to deal with Rome as the place where the war opponents clashed in the sphere of print as well as in reality. From 1641, the Portuguese ambassador tried to convince Pope Urban VIII of the legitimacy of Portuguese independence. While this endeavour was not crowned with success, the Portuguese delegation in Rome skilfully used the print medium to gain publicity for their cause. On a large scale, they illegally laid out sheets showing portraits of the new King John IV. The Spanish ambassador complained several times about this unacceptable behaviour. In August 1642, the situation escalated and the Portuguese and Spanish ambassador came to blows: Only by intervention of the Swiss Guard could the enemies be separated, and there were two deaths on the Spanish side. This street fight has been visualised and disseminated in an engraving that I would like to present. I am interested in strategies of visualization as well as in the specific possibilities that existed in Rome for the use of printed images in the period under investigation. What were the regulations, in Rome, for such an image war? What were the aims of the printers? And how can the specific Roman context be characterized in comparison with other printing locations in Europe? 

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