chapter  3
24 Pages

Popular efforts to forge union

The English visit to Paris in April 1849
WithJames Gregory

In the Paris Museum collection there is a crudely executed medal bearing the legend, ‘Visite rendue par les Français à Londres, septembre 1848; et par les Anglais à Paris, avril 1849’. It was struck to commemorate a minor episode in the history of Anglo-French relations: in the aftermath of French and European revolution in 1848. Before the Great Exhibition stimulated more famous displays of Anglo-French amity, this neglected episode in nineteenth-century ‘popular diplomacy’ represented both commercial tourism catering for the lower-middle classes and an attempt to reciprocate the National Guards’ gestures of friendship in the aftermath of the revolution of 1848. This chapter examines the significance of this event: through its contemporary reception in the British and French newspapers; presentation in published accounts such as John Bill’s The English Party’s Excursion to Paris, in Easter Week 1849 and What I Saw in Paris during Easter 1849; depiction in cartoons and text in the British and French satirical press; and commentary by members of the British political elite such as Lord Brougham, whose supposed involvement in the enterprise was, to his discomfort, lampooned in the pages of Punch. It locates the episode in a broader effort to create amity and union between French and British people: through the personal ties formed by tourism, communications between urban communities on both sides of the Channel and in mid-century peace activism.