Making a European People Visible

The Birth of Illustrated News and Transnational Political Subjectivity in the 1840’s

Project Description

How “people” come to identify as part of “the people”, in the sense of those that have a legitimate say in political matters in society, is in many ways a central question of our time. It is also a question with historical roots that go back to the constitution of modern democratic societies in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In this research project the people as a political subject is investigated through an analysis of how illustrated news magazines, that were established in several European countries during the 1840’s, contributed to new ways of imagining this collective.

The present study will investigate both how illustrated news magazines pictured public gatherings of people as expressions of a popular will, and how readers were in different ways positioned as part of a collective with legitimate interests in the business of government. The general hypothesis to be investigated is that the establishment of a market for visual news during this period, for the first time made it possible for influential groups to (literally) see themselves as participating in the life of a transnational European people. More generally, the study will provide historical perspective on present debates both about the politics of representation and the influence of different media on popular government.

A public meeting presented as spectacular event in the Illustrated London News in 1844.

About the Project

Project Duration



The Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences (Riksbankens Jubileumsfond)

Last modified: 2022-12-29