Research Paper Abstract

Update: I have changed my research paper. See the new abstract below.

At the end of the semester I will be submitting a short research paper for the core course of my MSc programme. I have chosen a series of engravings for it to be based on. As the old idiom states, a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case I only have 2,500 to describe four pictures and their context, as well as say something meaningful about them. I am really going to have to be careful about how I present my ideas. Luckily, I have practice being concise due to the dozens of times I had someone at work tell me “it’s good, but can you make it a little shorter?” Very few people in CRM really care what historians have to say…

Anyway, this is my abstract. It’s about Hogarth (who else?), and, in my opinion, his most disturbing series of engravings. They literally turn my stomach to look at them. As a vegetarian and animal lover I find it incredibly interesting that Hogarth was basically advocating for animal rights through the series. Hogarth was also an animal lover, and himself stated an intense aversion to cruelty to animals. I’d like to explore this more but with everything else I want to talk about in my little paper I don’t know how deeply I will delve into this particular issue. What follows is the assignment part of this blog entry, the scaffolding from which my paper will be constructed.


This paper will be an examination of Hogarth’s most disturbing series, The Four Stages of Cruelty.  I am interested in this series because it is not like Hogarth’s other series. It is neither quaint nor funny, and to this day has the ability to disturb and disgust the viewer. I will begin with an overview of current historical ideas about the series, followed by a description of the engravings themselves in which they will be examined and scrutinized for representations therein in an attempt to gain insight into their meaning. I will also briefly investigate how this series is similar and dissimilar to Hogarth’s other series. Despite the large amount of potential material here, I will keep it short because the real substance of the investigation comes after this introduction. For the bulk of the paper I will examine the series within its historical context. These are the questions I most want to ask of the series: What was the public reception? What does the reception say about the people of the eighteenth century? Did the series have an impact on public opinion of cruelty? Did it have an impact on how people viewed cruelty to animals (as I think Hogarth hoped it would)? I will assess the ideas of modern scholars concerning the work, as well as examine primary sources relating to its historical context. My goal is to provide a summary of the series and the ideas that led Hogarth to create it, and to answer my personal questions about the world into which it emerged.

 The Four Stages of Cruelty (1751)


Cunningham, Allan. “William Hogarth”. The Lives of the Most Eminent British Painters and Sculptors. J and J Harper (1831). 57. Print.

Donald, Diana. “‘Beastly Sights’: the treatment of animals as a moral theme in representations of London c. 1820-1850.” Art History 22.4 (1999) : 514-544. Print.

Lamb, Charles. “On the genius and character of Hogarth: with some remarks on a passage in the writings of the late Mr. Barry”. The Reflector 2 (3) (1811): 61–77. Print.

Paulson, Ronald. Hogarth, Vol. 2: Art High and Low: 1732-1750 . London: Lutterworth. 1992. Print.

Paulson, Ronald. Hogarth, Vol. 3 : Art and Politics: 1750-1764. London: Lutterworth. 1992. Print.

Uglow, Jennifer. Hogarth: A Life and A World. London: Faber and Faber. 1997

New Abstract (10/11/2010):

I am proposing to write a paper examining vegetarianism and animal rights in the long 18th Century. From my initial idea of doing a research paper on Hogarth’s The Four Stages of Cruelty grew an interest in 18th Century ideas about fair treatment of animals and a meat free diet, which turned out to far surpass my interest in the engravings themselves. The paper will begin with an overview of current research on the topic then move on to examine some of the historic figures who were proponents of ‘the natural diet’ and animal rights. I am interested to know why people in the 18th Century, in Britain in particular but perhaps on the continent as well, were interested in a meat free diet and fair treatment of animals. Was it idealism? Was it for health/medical reasons? If it was for health/medical reasons, was it for mental health or physical health, or both? Was it religious? Is there a connection between sympathy, as it was understood in the 18th Century, and ideas about animal welfare? In attempting to answer some of these questions the paper will examine primary resources including work by George Cheyne, John Wesley, William Hogarth, and Percy Bysshe. The paper will provide an account of the ideas that led people to adopt a belief in the necessity of the fair treatment of animals and a meat free diet. This will be explained through careful examination of primary sources, while also drawing on the research of modern scholars.


Albala, Ken. “Invisible Perspiration and Oily Vegetable Humor: An Eighteenth-Century Controversy over Vegetarianism”. Gastronomica V.2 (3) 2002

Chevallier, Jim. “Vegetarians in Old Regime France.” 2012. Electronic resource.

Guerrini, Anita. “A Diet for a Sensitive Soul: Vegetarianism in Eighteenth-Century Britain,” Eighteenth Century Life V.23 No.2 (May 1999). Pp.34-42.

Shevelow, Kathryn. For the Love of Animals: The Rise of the Animal Protection Movement. (New York: Henry Holt and Company). 2009.

 Stroup, William. “Meat, Ethics, and the Case of John Wesley,” Orthodoxy and Heresy in Eighteenth-Century Society: Essays from the DeBartolo Conference, ed. Regina Hewitt and Pat Rogers. (ordered from Alibris, unable to find bibliographical info online)


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