Read about the history of our island
“The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms.”
Muriel Rukeyser, in ‘The Speed of Darkness’ (1968)
This is a subset of our Island Detail pages which covers items of St Helena’s history.
Napoleon said “It must be recognized that the real truths of history are hard to discover.” Well, we’ve done our best, but if there is something about St Helena’s history that we have not covered please contact us and we’ll try to add it in.
To read more about the people behind our island’s histories, and download some of the documents, see our Historians of St Helena page.
Go to: Information Index • Historic Picture Gallery • Historic Images Slide Show • Today’s Images • Boer Prisoners (1900-1902) • The Briars Pavilion • A Brief History • Building St Helena Airport • Characters of St Helena • Chronology • Churches of St Helena • Deliberately Sunken Ships • Diplomatic Wireless Station • Discovery of St Helena • The East India Company • Exiles • Family And Friends • Famous Visitors • The Flax Industry • Forts and Batteries • The Missing Fountain Mystery • The Friendly Societies • Geology of St Helena • Ghost Stories of St Helena • The Governor of St Helena • The Governor’s Hat • The Great Wood Wall • Guns • The Historic Environment Record • High Knoll Fort • Historians of St Helena • Historic Buildings • Historic Buildings In Brief - Jamestown • Historic Buildings In Brief - Country • Important People • Invasion! • Lace Making • Lost and almost-lost Buildings • Lost Ships • Maps of St Helena • Memories of St Helena • Napoleon Bonaparte • Napoleonic Bicentenary • Napoleon’s Tomb • On This Day • Other Military Sites • Postcards of St Helena • Quincentenary of St Helena • Radio on St Helena • Radio St Helena • Our (Other) Railway • The St Helena Regiment • Rollers • Saint FM (2004-2012) • Saint Helena • Saved Buildings • Slaves and slavery • Origins of island surnames • Theatres • Time • Titbits from the records • Two St Helenas? • Whaling • Zzyzx
Thumbnails that can be expanded to full size images
Automated historic image show in random sequence
Look at what we feature
Home-from-home - almost
Napoleon’s Other House
How we got to here
Built and operating
Eccentric? Colourful? Mad? Criminal? You decide…
Major and minor events
And other religious buildings
Sent to the bottom
Or was it spying?
It’s not that simple
John, to it’s friends
Not all our visitors wanted to be here!
How to find people on St Helena
Let’s drop a few names
Economic lifeline or ecological disaster?
Defensive military installations
Where did it go?
Lending a hand
Upon this rock…
Don’t look round, but…
The one at the top
If you want to get ahead…
Too little, too late
Old and older
Important, in the past and today
Recording our past
A standing reminder
They made their mark
The only time St Helena has been captured
Over 100 years of history
‘In need of some work…’
Our seabed is littered with wrecks
Finding your way around
“Well, back in the day…”
His imprisonment, his death, and some things you maybe don’t know about him
A reason to celebrate…
But not his final resting place
Today, in history
…and related places
‘Looking Up - Looking Forward’
A surprisingly large number of stations
The voice of the island for 45 years
Useful; not quite as famous
‘The Old Saints’
The original heartbeat of St Helena
She gave our island her name
Almost lost; now restored
Part of what makes us what we are
How islanders got their family names
All the world’s a stage
Everything on St Helena starts 20 minutes late
To amuse and inform
Our mythical sister island
‘Thar she blows!’
Anything that didn’t fit in elsewhere
Sunset over James’ Bay
Article: “Napoleon skewered in new British exhibition”
Published on The Local [FR] 5th February 2015
A colourful new exhibition about French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte is opening in London on Thursday, showing how artists and cartoonists shaped the way the British perceived ‘The Little Corporal’.
Published in 1808, ‘The Corsican spider in his web’ by Thomas Rowlandson is one of dozens of drawings, posters and other prints on display at London’s British Museum until August 16th.
The exhibition, ‘Bonaparte and the British: prints and propaganda in the age of Napoleon’ charts the rise of the young general, ending with the downfall of the Emperor who once had Europe at his feet.
Bonaparte, who lived from 1769 to 1821, was a “charismatic enemy” with a reputation as a short, angry man: an irresistible subject for caricatures, according to historian Tim Clayton, a Napoleon expert.
“He had the misfortune to come along at exactly the wrong moment,” Clayton said.
“I don’t suppose anybody in history had been vilified and ridiculed in the way that Napoleon was vilified and ridiculed ever before.”
Flattering portraits and memorabilia collected by British admirers in the 1790s gives way to mockery, as Napoleon becomes more of a threat to Britain.
By the time the two countries are at war in 1803, British cartoonist James Gillray portrays Napoleon being roasted over a fire by the devil in ‘The Corsican pest or Beelzebub going to supper’.
Mocking Napoleon as ‘Little Boney’ and perpetuating the idea he was small in stature helped diminish the feeling of threat.
“Because you were frightened of him, you had to belittle him, make him seem not so frightening,” said curator Sheila O’Connell.
“So you made him a little tiny person. And that is how he’s remained in the British consciousness ever since.”
- Propaganda tool -
‘Little Boney’ appears again in 1812 as Napoleon’s Russian campaign turns into a disaster.
A cartoon by William Elmes called ‘General Frost shaving Little Boney’ shows the cold as a monster crushing the French armies and trapping Napoleon’s feet in ice.
Sold for an average of between 1 and 4 shillings each, the drawings were particularly popular in shops frequented by the London elite.
Used as a propaganda tool and sometimes controlled by the government, the satires helped forge a sense of British unity and shaped the way Napoleon was perceived through generations.
“They do have an influence on shaping people image of Napoleon. The idea that Napoleon is a little, angry chap sticks,” Clayton said.
“The fact that he was actually of average height seems to have escaped everybody’s attention.”
Cartoonists are kinder when Napoleon is less of a threat, and at times some Britons displayed admiration for the emperor.
One example is a bronze bust of Napoleon, carved in the style of a Roman emperor with idealised features, and installed in 1818 in a British aristocrat’s garden.
Featured at the entrance to the exhibition, the bust has a call for the emperor to return from exile in Saint Helena engraved at its base.
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