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Caitlin Sackrison ’15 explores French political cartoons as part of summer research

By Contributing Writer on August 23, 2013
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Caitlin Sackrison '15 used the university archives for her research of  19th-century French political cartoons. (Photo by Andy Daddio)

Caitlin Sackrison ’15 used the university archives for her research of 19th-century French political cartoons. (Photo by Andy Daddio)

Colgate students are sharing their experiences conducting research with faculty members on campus and in the field. This post is by history major Caitlin Sackrison ’15, of Minnetonka, Minn.

This summer I conducted research on over 75 19th-century French political cartoons found in the Colgate archives. I was funded through a grant from the Division of Social Sciences and advised by Professor Jill Harsin of the History Department, who helped me as I translated, identified, and analyzed each cartoon.

My initial goal for the summer was to study these cartoons, since they had yet to be thoroughly analyzed.

The Colgate archives contain over 200 political cartoons that were created during the Second Empire in France (1850-1870), and I chose to analyze only those cartoons containing depictions of women to narrow my focus.

In 1871, shortly after the Second Empire in France fell and the Commune took over, the common women of Paris (the pétroleuses) were blamed for the burning of France, thus I was interested in how women were illustrated in the cartoons.

It was amazing working with Professor Harsin during this process due to her through knowledge of French history and the French language. Though I had already taken her course pertaining to the Second Empire of France during the school year, I learned so much more this summer.

I am a history major, with a specific interest in French history, so this research opportunity was extremely useful. I not only learned more French, but I also learned more about specific characters during the Second Empire.

Emperor Napoléon III, Empress Eugénie, King Wilhelm I, Emile Olivier, and other significant figures during this time period were somewhat foreign to me when I began my research, but now I have a much better understanding of their roles in the fall of the Second Empire.

Overall, my summer experience helped me develop a greater understanding of 19th-century French history and a better grasp of international politics in Europe during that time.

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