The Triumph of Death

The Triumph of Death



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The Triumph of Death

The title illustration for the Exploring The Waste Land site is a detail from The Triumph of Death by Pieter Bruegel (the Elder). This is an edited image from one courtesly supplied by Carol Gerten-Jackson (see below).

Quick Access to contents on this page:

The Triumph of Death by Pieter Bruegel the Elder is painted in oil on a panel. It was completed circa 1562. The painting is kept at the Museo Nacional del Prado (The Prado) in Madrid, Spain. It measures 162 cm. wide x 117 cm. high which is about 64 x 46 inches (an even rougher English measurement is 5 feet x 4 feet).

The image I use is in JPEG format and its size is 600 x 200 pixels or about 25% of the full image (800 x 575) from which I cut this detail. The detail takes up about 27 kb of disk space, while downloads of the full image can transfer more than 200 kb.

  • The WebMuseum's Triumph of Death JPEG which is a 1089x776 217 kb image
  • Carol Gerten-Jackson's Triumph of Death webpage which contains a 880x574 211 kb JPEG image
  • The Artchive's Triumph of Death webpage contains a 1089x776, 217 kb JPEG image
  • The Prado has a small version of picture and a written description. The small picture is (16 kb, 251 x 173). There is also a bigger picture (58 kb, 500 x 345, 4 times as large).

Carol Gerten-Jackson has many scans of fine art available at her website Additionally, she has many mirror sites around the world and a page from which you can find the nearest mirror website.

She requests a mention and a link to her site if you have a copy of one of her images. This is mine.

Pieter Bruegel was born circa 1525 and died in September 1569. To differentiate between him and his son, also named Pieter, they are usually referred to with the appellation "the Elder" or "the Younger." Earlier in his career he used the name Brueghel.

The subjects of his paintings vary but all contain much detail. He painted mythological and Biblical scenes religious allegories done in the style of Hieronymus Bosch scenes of peasant life and social satires. He is also famous for his landscapes, including mountain landscapes.

Shown here is another section of The Triumph of Death . Here we can see death by water and the rattling of bones as Death's legions harvest kings as well as peasants.

The WebMuseum has a better page about Pieter Bruegel.

Carol Gerten-Jackson's Bruegel biography (reprinted with permission from MicroSoft Encarta Encyclopedia)

Hieronymus Bosch was born circa 1450 and died August 1516.

Also known as Jerome Bosch, this Dutch painter is known for his detailed, fantastic, often demonic imagery depicting the torments of Hell.

One of his best known works is The Garden of Earthly Delights , a triptych, of which a detail of one section is shown here.

This image is also from Carol Gerten-Jackson's site.

The WebMuseum has a better page about Hieronymus Bosch.

The Artchive does not have a biography of Bosch but it does have links (no thumbnails) to works by Bosch.

Carol Gerten-Jackson's site has a Bosch biography (reprinted with permission from MicroSoft Encarta Encyclopedia).

Lines 379-84 of The Waste Land are:

And bats with baby faces in the violet light
Whistled, and beat their wings
And crawled head downward down a blackened wall
And upside down in air were towers
Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours
And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells.

I belive that while doing research for this site I read that Eliot enjoyed the work of Bosch but at the time it had no meaning to me. Now I cannot find the reference.

Although it would have been appropriate for me to choose a painting by Hieronymus Bosch to illustrate this site I have chosen one by Bruegel in the style of Bosch because in The Triumph of Death we can see:


Over the past two years, a new genre of nonfiction has emerged, published by earnest and deeply panicked individuals, who feel that they need to sound the alarm.

What about? The dire consequences if globalism is allowed to flicker out. For ease of reference, we can call it, “Panic Lit.”

Fear is juddering through globalist intellectuals like Francis Fukuyama, Moritz Schularick, Christian Welzel, Nouriel Roubini, Jeffrey Sachs, William Easterly, Paul Collier, Carmen Reinhart, and others. All of them are busy writing papers and books deploring the rise of nationalism, which they know will kill their brand of globalism.

Of course, their globalism has nothing to do with people living together in peace and harmony – their globalism is about technocratic elites that siphon off the wealth of nations and into the hands of the few.

Austerity has been the lie that they have fed us all, while they sit in their high palaces, enjoying the fruit of our labors.

But they are now finally understanding that people are staring to wake up to their tactics, and the gravy boat will soon run dry.

Panic Lit has one theme in common – if globalism is allowed to end, there will be utter bestiality – people will instantly be transformed into hate-filled, narrow-minded, warmongers, shouting (oh, the horror) for patriotism, free market, less government, and secure borders.

Nothing makes elitist globalists cringe more than the call for a strong nation-state.

For a very long time, this kleptocracy has busily been nurturing and inculcating the great One World Order.

Their minions have been preaching about it forever – via the tiresome pontificating spurted by the Media-Hollywood-Education-Publishing-Sports behemoth.

The message is unchanging – how happy the world shall be when we only serve the very few post-national overlords.

And yet, despite the billions squandered in brainwashing tactics, the common people still want nationalism?!

Cue the shrieks of horror, and then the usual rending of cloth and gnashing of teeth.

But, of course, a book will solve the problem! Writing as therapy, along with some coloring books and hugs. The book as a consolation prize does have its uses, it would seem.

The mindless misguided just need to be shown what awaits them in the great yonder that is the free world, and they shall come scampering back to the gilded cage, frightened and helpless. Redemption is still at hand – all you have to do is believe in globalism, and all will be forgiven. Yes, a book will shore up the crumbling walls of Utopia.

Of course, these elites now well realize that their Erewhon, their Shangri-La is a place no one wants to inhabit.

Only the stunted imaginations of university “intellectuals” can seek to transform the entire planet into one massive prison-system, where nothing but the State matters, whose will all must obey.

What these ivory-tower thinkers did not realize, despite all their conniving mechanisms (aka, propaganda), is something crucial – politics and politicians, Hollywood and universities (there’s no real difference between the two now), publishers and the media – can only exist, let alone function, if the lowly commoners actually go along with it all.

If that cooperation vanishes, all institutions, all mechanisms of control, all machinery of producing consent, all means of indoctrination – no matter how finely crafted, no matter how sophisticated – comes to a grinding halt.

Finally, and at long last, this cooperation is evaporating, and humans are engaged in a new revolution – one in which there is no room for the globalist elite whose destiny now is to embody that terrible judgment passed by another misguided revolutionary (Leon Trotsky) – that these elite now belong in the dustbin of history.

The time has come at last for the renaissance of the strong nation-state, where loudly is heard the thrilling cry – “Long live free humanity!”

But what is this nation-state? A country that not only determines its own economic sovereignty, but more importantly one that defines itself by its unique moral character.

The problem with these various globalist thinkers has been that they worked from a faulty assumption – that life is all about the money. Keep flashing the dough, and people will follow mindlessly along.

But people do not live solely for money. They live by, with, for their moral principles. And they are willing to sacrifice a lot for these principles. “Man does not live by bread alone.”

Hence Panic Lit, to which another already-effete volume has just been added, penned by Stephen D. King, entitled, Grave New World: The End of Globalization, the Return of History.

The title is important – and rather telling.

Of course, it’s a play on Aldoux Huxley’s book, Brave New World, which laid out the grim program of globalism. But for King, the Utopia of the “Brave New Globalized World” has become a dystopia of a “Grave New World.”

For him, a world without his globalism is grim and grave. This is reminiscent of Dr. Josef Goebbels who happily killed all his six children because he could not imagine how they might live in a world without Hitler.

Likewise, King cannot imagine a world without globalism, and he fears what will come next, now that the cooperation of the common folk is disappearing fast, whose cry is age-old: “There are more of us than there are of you!”

Babylon has fallen, and great shall be its fall.

The title of King’s book also points to a concept happily embraced by all globalists of his ilk, namely, the “end of history.”

This term was popularized by Francis Fukuyama, but he also misrepresented it. In fact, it was first coined by the French philosopher, Antoine Cournot, and then fully developed by the German philosopher Martin Heidegger and his disciple, Gianni Vattimo.

In effect, the end of history does not mean that events will stop happening, or that the world will end.

Rather, the end of history means that future life will be lived without certainties, without truth, and therefore it will be forever predictable and forever knowable.

In other words, people will no longer have the sense that they are moving forward towards knowledge, but will exist forever in the right-now, as if caught in an unchanging web of nebulous associations.

Think of being trapped in an Eternal Now without any hope of getting out – a rather frightening prospect for humanity, and that unending present is called, “progress,” where the perfect state of existence has been reached, and nothing more can, o should, change, because all change has already happened, and all we need to do is sit back and enjoy the fruits produced by the machine of a well-organized state.

The very idea is revolting because such stasis means the end humanity – only a machine can exist in an Eternal Now, the same forever (hence the globalists’ love of technocracy).

The end of history only makes sense for the machine, which needs neither a past, nor a future – it just wants to get plugged in and hum along smoothly forever.

The State is the plug, which exists to keep machine-humans running and therefore being eternally useful to the elite.

Such is the horror of technocracy, where a human being is a nothing more than a mechanical bio-mass. Therefore, all globalists are technocrats, intent on zapping their version of Frankenstein into some sort of animation, which may be mistaken for “real” human existence.

Imagine a life bound purely to the senses, and you have the end of history – when you have only feelings and sensations, events have no significance, no meaning, because there is no truth to strive for. Things happen, but they are not worthy of being noticed – because to notice is to give events meaning. And there can be no meaning in the Eternal Now.

Meaning needs thoughts and ideas – but what good are ideas to a machine?

Thus in a globalist state, thoughts and ideas are dangerous, because they upset the grand paradigm of a mechanical life. This is why ideas must first be controlled so they can then be destroyed.

Individualism is dangerous, and collectivism is good, and this is why we now see a resurgence of communism. How often do we hear the opinion – “Real communism has never been tried.” Why has this become a talking-point?

To make a human being into a machine requires not only a grand strategy, but also a relentless will, which the globalists have demonstrated they have plenty of. Couple that with communism, and you have the perfect strategy of control – collectivization.

Thus, also the creation of the mechanized humanoids – sexless, sterile and fully controlled. It is the globalists’ dream – the end of humanity and the rise of “humanoidity.” A new type of life that can exist forever, because mechanical parts are easily replaced.

But not all may enter into this mechanized Elysium – only the few. Thus, the cant of “too many people on the planet,” “save the planet from humans,” the wilful worship of earth as mother, as Gaia, who shall consume her own young.

Hence, also the strong link of all “progessive” ideas with antenatalism – feminism, homosexuality, gender identity. Babies are the ultimate evil for progress.

This is all, of course, Neronian, in a way – that is, Nero burned down Rome so he could build himself a vast palace, called the Golden House.

The globalists have been wanting to undertake a similar burning away of excess humanity, in order to transform the planet into a Golden House of their own, where only a few humanoids will exist eternally, as robotic slaves.

Such is the grim world of the automaton. This is what is meant by “the end of history,” and that is why it is the chief goal of globalism – the end of natural human beings, and the rise of mechanical human beings.

This makes globalism, then, the fully ripened form of nihilism.

Thus, when King’s book links the demise of globalism with the rise of history – unwittingly he is saying that humanity has risen up and is refusing to be annihilated.

History is intensely human, because history is intensely moral. When we piece together events of the past, we are really constructing a moral memory-palace – what happened and how things happened lead to the question that people are far more interested in – why did it happen in the first place?

This is why progressivism hates history (the recent tearing of statues in the US).

Whenever we ask, “Why?” we are being moral, because we are seeking the truth which alone can satisfy our moral curiosity, which in turn is our search for a greater, ultimate truth, namely, God.

King’s book is nothing but a list of dire events (versions of economic collapse) that will come about if globalism is abandoned by the West. There is even the warning that without globalism democracy itself will fall apart.

Then, he issues the call for governments to “at least attempt to challenge the inconsistencies of those who seek to pursue policies of disintegration.” Such is the final whimper, “at least try” to stop humanity from wanting to be human, wanting a future (in which to create history).

“Disintegration” means the final collapse of globalism. King clearly recognizes this – and he has no clue what to do about it, which is telling. The machine cannot think. It can only follow predetermined patterns.

In the face of morality, globalism is empty nihilism. What man or woman wants to fall into a bottomless pit?

Rather, people want to be both mortal and moral. They want history. The human soul, the true moral compass of life, will always deny the machine, because it is far stronger.

Globalism is dead. Truth, morality and hope will always win, because all three make humans intensely human. It is this intensity of humanity that globalism cannot comprehend, let alone overpower, or even control.

Be strong my friends – the hour of our freedom is at hand! Strike down tyranny and live free! And don’t buy Panic Lit!


The Real History of Memorial Day

Memorial Day occupies a traditional place in American history. A nyone who grew up in this country understands it to be a celebration of wartime sacrifice and patriotic valor. It’s a holiday with its origins in the Civil War, a time of untold division, death, and disease—but also the ostensible triumph of e quality (in theory if not remotely in practice) over slavery.

Most people likely don’t ruminate on the origins of Memorial Day as they plan their long weekend getaways and family cookouts, but the general story goes something like this: A year after the war ended, in 1866, a group of women began commemorating the 620,000 soldiers and civilians slain in the conflict or fell ed by disease while fighting it by laying wreaths on the graves in the hospital town of Columbus, Mississippi . In 1868, the annual day of commemoration was born, and has been celebrated ever since on the last Monday of May. General John A. Logan, a Union veteran leader, made it so, declaring “Decoration Day” a national holiday.

While all of that is true, it’s technically a piece of revisionism ( as evidenced by the multitude of towns who lay claim to the first Memorial Day tributes ), and one that places whites at the forefront of a cherished American pastime . The official story erases what the Yale historian David W. Blight has long argued are the original roots of Memorial Day—a tribute orchestrated by Black members of the Union Infantry that’s been drained of color, so to speak, by time and the whitewashing of history.


Secret development

But Bloor’s second move was equally foresighted. Operating from an industrial unit at nearby Bayton Road, Bedworth, he assembled a small team of designers and experts, some ex-Meriden, to develop his new motorcycle project. Although Bloor now owned the still-born Triumph 'Diana' engine design (a liquid-cooled, DOHC 900cc twin that, in prototype form had been shown by Triumph in March 1983 in a last-ditch attempt to attract investment), it was quickly rejected and his team looked elsewhere.

After visiting motorcycle factories around the world, particularly Japan and Europe, Bloor and his team came to the conclusion that a modern, multi-cylinder machine built to exacting hi-tech standards would be required to overcome Triumph’s somewhat tarnished reputation.

It was also decided that, to appeal as widely as possible and thus make mass production viable, not one, but a whole range of bikes would be developed. To do this they shrewdly adopted a modular approach, as is common in the car world, to produce a range of such machines as economically as possible.

The first engine, a 1200cc DOHC four, from which short-stroke and three-cylinder variants would ultimately deliver four engines and six models, was on the test bench by 1987. The following year, still in total secrecy, Bloor set up a parent company, 'Bonneville Coventry Ltd', changing its name to Triumph Motorcycles following the end of the Les Harris licence.

While that year, 1988, also saw construction begin on an all-new, state-of-the-art motorcycle factory on a 10-acre site in Jacknell Road, Hinckley. The price this time? A reported £80m, all out of Bloor’s personal pocket, although conveniently built by Bloor’s own company. Things were getting serious, although the motorcycling world was completely oblivious.


The Triumph of Death

Painted on the side of the Oratorio dei Disciplini in Clusone, Italy, is a haunting mural that celebrates the capricious nature of death.

Painted by Giacomo Borlone de Burchis in the 15th century, the art expresses the sentiments of an ancient Christian brotherhood who focused on death and burial as a holy experience. Wearing rather terrifying burial hoods and garments the brotherhood would perform elaborate funerary rituals on the eligible dead. The Oratorio acted as their meeting place.

The morbid fresco on the wall of the Oratorio, entitled “The Triumph of Death,” is divided into a number of scenes. Displayed in the upper portion is the titular “Triumph.” Death is represented as a crowned skeleton queen swinging scrolls in both hands, with two fellow skeletons at her side killing people with a bow and an ancient harquebus. Around her, a group of powerful, but desperate, people are offering valuables and begging for mercy, but Death is not interested in mundane wealth, she only wants the lives of the owners. Beneath her feet there is a marble coffin where the corpses of an emperor and a pope rest surrounded by poisonous animals, symbols of a fast and merciless end. A painted scroll above the scene states that only those who have offended God will suffer a painful death, while those who followed a righteous path will pass to a different, better life.

The lower portion of the fresco shows the Dance Macabre, with several characters from different social classes walking with skeletons to join the fatal dance of death.

Unfortunately, time and human hands have caused portions of the mural to fall away, but the remaining brightly colored paints and their Draconian message refuse to die.


The Triumph of Death

This painting depicts a customary theme in medieval literature: the dance of Death, which was frequently used by Northern artists. Brueghel casts the entire work in a reddish-brown tone that gives the scene an infernal aspect appropriate for the subject at hand. The profusion of scenes and moralizing sense applied by the artists are part of Hieronymous Bosch´s influence on this work. Bruegel combines two distinct visual traditions within the panel. These are his native tradition of Northern woodcuts of the Dance of Death and the Italian conception of the Triumph of Death, as in frescoes he would have seen in the Palazzo Sclafani in Palermo and in the Camposanto Monumentale at Pisa.

The Triumph of Death is an oil panel painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted c. 1562. It has been in the Museo del Prado in Madrid since 1827.

The painting shows a panorama of an army of skeletons wreaking havoc across a blackened, desolate landscape. Fires burn in the distance, and the sea is littered with shipwrecks. A few leafless trees stud hills otherwise bare of vegetation fish lie rotting on the shores of a corpse-choked pond. Art historian James Snyder emphasizes the "scorched, barren earth, devoid of any life as far as the eye can see." In this setting, legions of skeletons advance on the living, who either flee in terror or try in vain to fight back. In the foreground, skeletons haul a wagon full of skulls in the upper left corner, others ring the bell that signifies the death knell of the world. A fool plays the lute while a lady sings behind both of them a skeleton plays along a starving dog nibbles at the face of a child a cross sits in the center of the painting. People are herded into a coffin shaped trap decorated with crosses, while a skeleton on horseback kills people with a scythe. The painting depicts people of different social backgrounds – from peasants and soldiers to nobles as well as a king and a cardinal – being taken by death indiscriminately.

A skeleton parodies human happiness by playing a hurdy-gurdy while the wheels of his cart crush a man like nothing. A woman has fallen in the path of the death cart she holds in her hand a spindle and distaff, classical symbols of the fragility of human life. Nearby another woman in the part of the cart has a slender thread which is about to be cut by the scissors in her other hand. Just below her a cardinal is helped towards his fate by a skeleton who mockingly wears the red hat, while a dying king's barrel of gold coins is looted by yet another skeleton. In one detail, a dinner has been broken up and the diners are putting up a futile resistance. They have drawn their swords in order to fight the skeletons dressed in winding-sheets no less hopelessly, the jester takes refuge beneath the dinner table. The backgammon board and the playing cards have been scattered, while a skeleton thinly disguised with a mask empties away the wine flasks. Above, a woman is being embraced by a skeleton in a hideous parody of after-dinner amorousness. Of the menu of the interrupted meal, all that can be seen are a few pallid rolls of bread and an appetizer apparently consisting of a pared human skull. As the fighting breaks out, a skeleton in a hooded robe mockingly seems to bring another dish, also consisting of human bones, to the table.

The painting shows aspects of everyday life in the mid-sixteenth century. Clothes are clearly depicted, as are pastimes such as playing cards and backgammon. It shows objects such as musical instruments, an early mechanical clock, scenes including a funeral service, and various methods of execution, including the breaking wheel, the gallows, and the headsman. In one scene a human is the prey of a skeleton-hunter and his dogs. In another scene a man with a grinding stone around his neck is about to be thrown into the pond by the skeleton.

This is a part of the Wikipedia article used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). The full text of the article is here →


Триумф смерти

В середине XVI столетия карательные отряды испанцев под предводительством фанатика герцога Альбы «огнём и мечом» прошлись по территории Нидерландов (в те времена – испанской колонии), чтобы истребить протестантизм и ереси. После них остались пепелища костров и горы трупов, счет которых шёл на тысячи. Король Испании и ярый католик Филипп II Габсбург заявлял: «Я скорее пожертвую ста тысячами жизней, чем перестану преследовать еретиков!»

Под впечатлением от этих событий Питер Брейгель создал одну из самых страшных и одновременно самых впечатляющих своих картин «Триумф смерти» .

Мы не располагаем достаточным количеством данных, чтобы утверждать, был ли сам художник католиком или протестантом и чья правота была для него очевидной. В «Триумфе смерти» он создаёт величественную апокалиптическую панораму, состоящую из нагромождения многофигурных групп, связанных темой гибели. Смерть настигает героев Брейгеля кругом: в массовом побоище и индивидуальном поединке, за работой, за трапезой и даже на любовном свидании (сцена в правом нижнем углу). Он неё невозможно укрыться. От неё нет защиты. Смерть – вездесуща.

В геометрическом центре картины мы видим гротескное изображение всадника апокалипсиса – скелета на тощей лошади, врывающегося куда-то прямо в гущу кипящей битвы. Полчища скелетов, щитами которым служат крышки их гробов, являют собой войско смерти, её верных ратников. Они не разбираются в ранге своих жертв – скелеты настигают и короля (в левом нижнем углу), и кардинала, и карточного шулера, и купцов, и крестьян.

Любовь Брейгеля к панорамным необозримым пейзажам в «Триумфе смерти» оборачивается чудовищным ландшафтом, напоминающим выжженную пустыню и усеянным виселицами, голыми остовами деревьев и столбами для колесования. Трава пожелтела и высохла. Вода, судя по плавающим в ней трупам, заражена. За холмами видно алое адское пожарище. Воздух отравлен дымом и смрадом.

Однако страшнее всего в «Триумфе смерти» не всё перечисленное выше, а полное отсутствие идеи искупления. Её не видно ни по эту сторону жизни, ни после смерти. В тщетной надежде люди ломятся под черную поднятую дверь с изображение креста, но и она написана так, что выглядит скорее мышеловкой, которая вот-вот захлопнется, чем островком спасения.


The Black Death: The Plague, 1331-1770

1331-34: Plague outbreak in Southwestern China spreads through Asia to the Mediterranean.

1345: Plague occurs in Volga River basin and spreads through Eastern and Central Europe eventually reaching Constantinople the main trade link between Europe and Asia.

1347: Black plague reaches Italy

Jan. 1348: Plague reaches Marseille, France

Nov. 1348: Plague reaches London

May 1349: Plague reaches Scotland, Wales and Ireland

1349: Scandinavia affected by the plague

1350: Uncharted Eastern Europe affected by plague

1382: Black plague returns to Europe, takes an especially heavy toll on Ireland

1647: Great plague of Seville

1665: Great plague of London

1666: The Plague in England up until the Great Fire of London that kills the rats carrying the disease

1679: Plague in Central Europe, small outbreak in England

1710-11: Outbreak of plague in Sweden and Finland

1720: Plague in Marseilles

1722: Defoe publishes A journal of the Plague Year, a fictional account of the London 1665 outbreak

1770: Plague in the Balkans lasts about 2 years

Note: While the plague spread through most of Western Europe, not all areas were uniformly devastated by the epidemic. Places with little trade were impacted far less than large ports.

©2017 John Martin Rare Book Room, Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, 600 Newton Road, Iowa City, IA 52242-1098
Image: Pieter Bruegel, The Triumph of Death (detail), c. 1562, oil on panel, 117 x 162 cm, Museo del Prado, Madrid

Acknowledgements to Alice M. Phillips for her work editing the original exhibit material and subsequent web design.

John Martin Rare Book Room

The nearly 6,500 volumes in the John Martin Rare Book Room are original works representing classic contributions to the history of the health sciences from the 15th through 21st Centuries. Also included are selected books, reprints, and journals dealing with the history of medicine at the University and in the State of Iowa.


Death, The Vaccinator

During the month of October, we see pumpkins, black cats, witches, and skeletons everywhere we turn. These images remind us of costumed children, scary movies, and tasty treats. But there is a bigger history behind these images, specifically the skeleton. A symbol for death and the afterlife, sometimes positive and sometimes negative, the skeleton holds a powerful meaning across many diverse cultures. It was also once adopted by the 19 th -century anti-vaccination movement to scare people, especially parents, into forgoing smallpox vaccination. Below are a few examples of skeletal images used by Victorian Era anti-vaccinators.

Image from a Victorian Era anti-vaccination journal depicting death waiting to vaccinate a young child.

Death The Vaccinator

In 1853 the Anti-Vaccination League was founded in London as an immediate response to the Vaccination Act of the same year, which called for compulsory vaccination for all infants in the first three months of life. Parents who did not follow suit were liable to a fine or imprisonment. Here we see a police officer reminding a mother to vaccinate her young child, while a skeleton (death) is touching the child where the vaccine is routinely injected. The League and other anti-vaccination groups used images in pamphlets and their own journals as a common and easy way to get the public’s attention to the League’s belief that the vaccines caused more harm than good.

An envelope showing death vaccinating a young child and a mother being held back by a police officer allowed for anti-vaccinators to have their message spread far and wide.

Death The Vaccinator, Envelope

Victorian anti-vaccinators were very creative in their propaganda tools. Here is an envelope showing a scene similar to the Death the Vaccinator image. The envelope also has a short message written on the flap stating, “Vaccination is a process of corruption and death” and also warns that vaccinating doctors have only financial gain in mind. Utilizing envelopes allowed for a broader audience to receive the anti-vaccination message.

A poster used in Montreal to convince the general public that the government and medical professionals were only vaccinating children for monetary gain and not for health reasons.

There's Money In It.

The exact same image from the envelope, minus the coloring, appears in this 1885 poster from the city of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It was not only the United Kingdom with grand scale anti-vaccination movements during this era, but also Canada, the United States, and Brazil. Appealing to the working class, these posters claimed the government and medical professionals only wanted to make money from vaccinating children. Anti-vaccinators stated that “cleanliness, sanitation, and hygiene” would be enough to keep the body safe from infectious diseases and that the new science of vaccination would instead cause bodily and economic harm.

A political cartoon from famous Punch magazine lauding the passing of the 1898 Vaccination Act (U.K.) while also warning of the public's upset that their individual liberty is being threatened due to government interference.

Triumph of De-Jenner-Ation

Political cartoons were popular during the early 19th century in Western Europe and North America, especially among the middle class. Here is a cartoon from the popular Punch magazine depicting the reaper victoriously holding up a copy of the United Kingdom’s 1898 Vaccination Act and a snake ready to attack in the bottom corner. Unlike other portrayals of skeletons in imagery related to the vaccination debate, this one supports the Act, which legalized compulsory smallpox vaccination, though it included a conscientious objection clause. The debate between individual liberty vs. social good appears in this image with the snake representing individual liberty (preventable diseases ready to strike future generations due to those refusing vaccinations) while the reaper represents social good (the elimination of preventable diseases through government orders and the public’s acceptance). The title “Triumph of De-Jenner-Ation” nods, of course, to Edward Jenner, the pioneer of the smallpox vaccine.

A political cartoon that does not have the skeleton as the main focus anymore. A snake, representing vaccination, is ready to strike a mother and her young child instead.

Do Not Vaccinate.

A scared mother holding her helpless child flees from a giant snake as a skeleton watches and waits in the background. In a simple yet stirring cartoon the anti-vaccination movement uses fear to gain favor for their ideals. Telling its viewers with fewer than five words that death awaits for those who vaccinate shows just how well-known the anti-vaccination movement’s argument was by the late 1800s. While the skeleton is no longer Death The Vaccinator he is still the depiction of death incarnate in the eyes of anti-vaccinators.

A creature of mixed animal parts creates The Vaccination Monster, who is a beast with an insatiable appetite for young children. The horned men feeding the monster are seen as followers of pro-vaccination.

The Vaccination Monster

A bonus image, one without skeletons, shows the vaccination monster. He is a creature of mixed animals with “all the evils of Pandora’s box in his belly, plague pestilence, leprosy, purple blotches, foetid ulcers, and filthy running sores covering his body.” Anti-vaccinators once again use fear as a ploy to convince the public to join their movement by depicting horned medical professionals feeding babies to the monster to help feed its unending appetite. Anti-vaccinators wanted to portray vaccinating doctors and parents as worshipers of a disease cult who were putting children in the jaws of danger, quite literally here.

Death The Vaccinator was a powerful image during the 19th century, inciting fear and anger amongst the general public. The anti-vaccination movement went to extreme measures to “protect” their children, even going so far as to create fake vaccination scars and falsified vaccination certificates so unvaccinated children could still attend school, thus endangering their lives and the lives of other children. When comparing the Victorian Era anti-vaccination movement with the modern day one there is not much difference in tactics used with the main tool being to induce fear through imagery. Only the medium used to spread these ideas has changed as technology has entered our daily lives. The images here use similar tactics as in the Victorian Era by inducing fear with the image of a scared and hurt child. Death The Vaccinator, once the mascot of the anti-vaccination movement, is not physically seen anymore, but his presence is still felt in the ads, images, and articles published by modern anti-vaccinators.

Modern anti-vaccination movements use similar tactics as Victorian anti-vaccination movements to get their message out such as using envelopes with fearsome images. The anti-vaccination movement today uses fear tactics much like the original anti-vaccination groups.

All historical images are from The College of Physicians of Philadelphia's Historical Medical Library and copyright The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. With exception of Triumph of De-Jenner-Ation copyright Punch Magazine,The Vaccination Monster of public domain, and Do Not Vaccinate. of public domain.


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