Some remarks on the long history of imagined conflicts to come, against the backdrop of the emergence of a world technology-mediated interconnectedness – closing the future wars series
La guerre infernale’s case study, explored in this series on future wars which comes to an end with this post, can today foster a better understanding of how the representation of the future begun to work as a pliable setting for speculative narratives, and how related genres emerged and found success in early-contemporary European cultural consumption.
This 1908 feuilleton invites today’s reader to mind a plurality of levels, exploiting critical tools at the intersection of different scholarly traditions, so that it might in turn be used to provide concrete evidence of phenomena involving complex historical traditions and communicative circuits. In other words, what one might call a global microhistory of Giffard and Robida’s fiction locates its object against the backdrop of a long history of ideas, as an apt expression of the emergence of a world technology-mediated interconnectedness in its specific early-contemporary European historical and cultural context, and as a unique embodiment of its author(s) ideas.
Speculations about the future between the late-modern and the-early contemporary periods – from Guttin’s Epigone to Macaria, from Madden to Mercier and Condorcet – represent through fiction the deep changes that affected ideas of time in the European mind in the age of colonial expansion. Knowledge from remote parts of the globe and close encounters with other societies generated an information flow towards the centres of imperial powers, which fed new attempts at comprehend and systematise the varieties of the human life. Literature and illustration exploited – and some time, in the hands of authors such as H. G. Wells, called into question – the consolidation of history as progress. A consequent hierarchisation of human experiences, from the mid-nineteenth century on, informed the juxtaposition of spatially and temporally distant civilisations in complex cultural artefacts such as international exhibitions and fairs.
Futuristic fictions interpreted the increasingly central role that science and technology had in shaping everyday life, and, on a different scale, power relations through the globe. Literary and visual cultural products to be found in popular magazines and illustrated book collections, such as Robida’s works, shared the thematization of the future and the imaginative use of techno-science as wonder to be found in international expos especially from the 1880s on.
Satirizing the present, extrapolating possible consequences from coeval inventions and trends, offering a device to produce awe – or horror – in its readers, and putting techno-science at center stage in its narrative invention, Robida’s tomorrow is today all the more fascinating as it epitomizes a phase in the cultural history of the future in which the deep structures that informed the conceptualisation of historical time underpinned new forms of mass cultural consumption. In so doing, Robida’s imagination shows at work the genre’s distinct treatment of causal mechanisms in time: “These projections … playfully represent the colonisation of the future by the present, through the forceful extension of contemporary trends, and, at the same time, the returning feedback – colonisation of the present by the future, the reified anticipations, anxieties, and projects of our technoscientific problem-solving.”
Between the seventeenth and the early nineteenth century, a long history of future-conflicts scenarios used to argue political options and to reflect on a secularised history, in which society might be shaped by human action. These works are precedent to the codification of future wars as a speculative fiction sub-genre with a recognisable set of conventions, appealing to a specific horizon of expectations. Technology as means of world interconnectedness as well as spectacle and source of wonder, anxieties fuelled by tensions between European powers and by the emergence of non-Western actors provided fertile ground to the fortunes of future-war narratives during the nineteenth and the early twentieth century. Imagined conflicts to come put into focus the critical relations between technology and globalisation and between technology and power relations that characterised a mature phase of European imperialistic expansion.
In La guerre infernale’s representation of future warfare and its effect on society, an imagination that extrapolates from the compression of a global space-time through technology is at work, drawing on exhibitionary mechanisms made popular by those international expos with which Albert Robida was familiar, such as Paris 1981, 1989, and 1900. Robida’s case illustrates how shared mechanism between fiction and expos might be interpreted in light of an isomorphism derived from the existence of a common matrix – a shared set of roots in the same cultural-historical context – as well as of a complex set of mutual influences, including the adoption of the same science-fictional mechanisms by the creative agencies involved.
Like other future-war narratives, La guerre projected fears of a techno-scientific driven modernity applied to armed conflicts. After 1918, war experienced in the heart of Europe will favour the pessimistic shift represented by L’Ingénieur Von Satanas. Yet, already before 1915, many recent experiences outside the European space (from Southern Africa with the Anglo-Zulu and Anglo-Boer Wars, to Manchuria with the Russo-Japanese War, from French Indochina with the Franco-Siamese War to China with the Boxer rebellion) gave an immediate evidence to fears that took centre stage in the late nineteenth-early twentieth century European mass media. Giffard and Robida’s feuilleton, with its serialised formula, exploitation of sensational plot elements, and ability to tap into widespread anxieties, was again an excellent example of that in many ways.
 Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr., The Seven Beauties of Science Fiction (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2008), 91.
This post is adapted from Giulia Iannuzzi, “The Illustrator and the Global Wars to Come: Albert Robida, La guerre infernale, and the Long History of Imagined Warfare”, Cromohs – Cyber Review of Modern Historiography, 22 (2019): 95-136; par. “Techno-apocalypses”, pp. 124-126. DOI: 10.13128/cromohs-11706.
A new post in the future wars series: yellow perils, bacteriological weapons, and futuristic inventions, before and after WWI
By 1908, the stereotypes and racialised representation of Asian populations used in Albert Robida’s feuilleton La guerre infernale – such as the demographic pressure and willingness to sacrifice millions of individuals (instalments 16, 24), the comparisons with insects such as ants (instalment 23, Les fourmis jaunes), the topoi of Oriental cruelty – were well established in popular Western yellow peril narratives and propaganda.
In La guerre, bacteriological weapons are used to reduce their numbers (instalment 25, A nous le choléra!) but soon these weapons pollute the waters and affect the “whites” as well. Among yellow-perils coeval narratives, Jack London’s “The Unparalleled Invasion” ought to be mentioned for a similar idea of an annihilation of Chinese people operated – successfully in London’s case – by Western powers with bacteriological weaponry, after the realisation of China’s potential for world domination thanks to its demographic strength. Written around 1907 and first published in 1910, London’s short story is mainly set in 1976, and it is framed as written retrospectively from a yet even more distant future. According to John Swift “The Unparalleled Invasion” “clearly gives expression to an uneasy premonition, in London, in his culture, or in both, of the precariousness of white racial supremacy; but, more interestingly, it pays homage in language and plot to an emergent science and scientism that made racial anxieties simultaneously more frightening and more manageable.” The parallel might help today’s reader to better grasp the significance of the yellow peril theme at the time, and to see how a grotesque exaggeration and satirical elements are exploited by Giffard and Robida’s in expressing in words and images racial fears.
The fear of an overwhelming wave is aptly represented by the image of an artificial hill made by soldier with their bodies, which the Chinese army erects on its march towards Moscow so that the officers can get a better view of their surroundings (instalment 28, Les Chinois à Moscou). The scene is described with horror by the narrator, who is following the Chinese army as a prisoner with other Westerners. In Moscow, horrible tortures and painful deaths await them, drawing on the topos of Oriental cruelty, not unprecedented in Robida’s work, nor isolated in popular French and Western publications, where, by the end of the 1880s, Chinese torture had become a fairly common topic in public discourse, thanks not only to the interest in Chinese society and culture created by developments in East-West political and cultural relations such as the opening of a Chinese embassy in London in 1877 and the Chinese section at the 1878 Paris International Exhibition, but also to the proliferation of specific tropes in popular literature (instalments 28 and 29, Dans l’avenue des supplices).
Throughout the novel, nature is bent and shaped by technology: tunnels of gigantic proportions are excavated both by the Germans when they attack France, and in England where the Tube is re-purposed as a bomb shelter, transferring the entire capital underground (instalments 8 and 9). The famous London fog is cleared with specially developed acetylene guns (instalment 10). To ward off Japanese battleships, the Americans create a cage of fire on the water using a system of oil pipes off the coast of Florida. Thanks to the genius of an inventor by the name of Erikson, the US Department of Power and Electricity manages to jam the Japanese compasses, and to freeze the water by suddenly removing the oxygen from it. Thousands of Japanese corpses are burnt, poisoning the air with a terrible stench. Similarly, by altering the chemical composition of the atmosphere, and by electrifying the soil, thousands of casualties are caused on land, in a terrible exercise of “scientific massacre” (La tuerie scientifique, instalment 17).
La guerre infernale, as the precedent La guerre au vingtième siècle, with its rutilant imagination, and its narrative frame ultimately neutralising tragedy and destruction as part of a dream from which the protagonists wakes in the last pages, testifies Robida as – in I. F. Clarke’s words –
one of the very few … who found it possible to be funny about ‘the next great war.’ 
It is worth noting that the experience of the First World War will radically change his approach. Immediately after the conflict, Robida published a short illustrated in-folio album – Le Vautour de Prusse – and a 302-pages novel – L’Ingénieur Von Satanas – developing the same anti-Prussian reflections, and revisiting the war theme with a more pronounced anti-militarist spirit.L’Ingénieur’s second prologue, taking place in the fictional “Peace Palace” in La Hague where a pacifist international conference is inaugurating the palace, in 1909, seems to suggest a direct reprise of La guerre, followed by its pessimistic fulfilment. Scientists, politicians, philosophers, and millionaires from all around the world are championing a pacific progress and greeting the beginning of a new global golden age, brought about by techno-scientific progress. But scientific marvels become means of mass destruction in the hand of the greedy Prussians, corrupted by the evil engineer Von Satanas, a diabolical figure recurring through the ages, that might as well be seen as the embodiment of human nature’s dark side and inclination towards violence and conflict. In 1929, Europe and the whole world have become home to a new prehistoric and barbaric civilisation, a post-apocalyptic land, with survivors living underground. Endless irregular lines of trenches, bomb craters, burrows and tunnels disfigure the Earth surface and render the similar to the Moon’s.
Without losing the adventurous edge that characterised La guerre as well as other Robida’s earlier works, L’Ingénieur offers a rather more pessimistic and sinister take not so much on science per se – which is presented as the key to a possible future of harmony and prosperity – but on the human ability to put differences aside and resist belligerent instincts.
The next post in the future wars series will summarise some conclusions about Robida’s work and war imagery as a laboratory for a global and futuristic mind set.
 Thoralf Klein, “The ‘Yellow Peril’,” EGO – European History Online, external link; John Kuo Wei Tchen and Dylan Yeats, eds., Yellow Peril! An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear (London: Verso, 2014); John W. Dower, “Yellow Promise / Yellow Peril: Foreign Postcards of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05),” MIT Visualizing Cultures, 2008, see especially section ‘Yellow Peril’, external link. See also Michael Keevak, Becoming Yellow: A Short History of Racial Thinking (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2011).
 John N. Swift, “Jack London’s ‘The Unparalleled Invasion:’ Germ Warfare, Eugenics, and Cultural Hygiene,” American Literary Realism 35, no. 1 (2002): 59-71, qt. 60; see here 67 for remarks on the narration’s grotesque detachment, elements of a dark Swiftean approach, and an ironic distance between London and his narrator. On London, the Russo-Japanese war, and yellow peril fears see also Daniel A. Métraux, “Jack London: The Adventurer-Writer who Chronicled Asian Wars, Confronted Racism-and Saw the Future,” The Asia-Pacific Journal 8, no. 4.3 (2010): 1-10.
 André Lange, “Le rire et l’effroi. Supplices et massacres orientaux dans l’oeuvre d’Albert Robida”, in Le Supplice Oriental dans la littérature et les arts, ed. Antonio Dominguez Leiva and Muriel Detrie (Neuilly-lès-Dijon: Editions du Murmure, 2005), 135-169 ; Jérôme Bourgon, “Les scènes de supplices dans les aquarelles chinoises d’exportation”, 2005, Chinese Torture / Supplices Chinois, accessed January 21, 2020, external link.
 On the precedent of the tube in La vie electrique see also Dominique Lacaze, “Albert Robida, Explorer of the Twentieth Century,” part I, “Technical Innovation” and part II, “The Invention of a Society,” Futuribles 366 (2010): 61-70, and 367 (2010): 65-76, see I, 65.
 I. F. Clarke, “Future-War Fiction: The First Main Phase, 1871-1900,” Science Fiction Studies, 24, no. 3 (November, 1997): 387-412, see 398.
 Albert Robida, Le Vautour de Prusse (Paris: Georges Bertrand, 1918); Robida, L’Ingénieur Von Satanas (Paris: La Renaissance du Livre, 1919), Bibliothèque nationale de France, Gallica, identifier: ark:/12148/bpt6k14217576. A brief mention is in Philippe Willems, “A Stereoscopic Vision of the Future: Albert Robida’s Twentieth Century,” Science Fiction Studies 26, no. 3 (November 1999): 354-378, see 376-377, note 18.
This post is adapted from Iannuzzi, G. (2019). “The Illustrator and the Global Wars to Come: Albert Robida, La guerre infernale, and the Long History of Imagined Warfare”, Cromohs – Cyber Review of Modern Historiography, 22, 95-136; par. “Techno-apocalypses”, pp. 122-124. DOI: 10.13128/cromohs-11706. Full text available in open access: https://oajournals.fupress.net/index.php/cromohs/article/view/11706.
A new post in the future-wars series: Robida and the world war of the future
La guerre infernale was written by Pierre Giffard and illustrated by Albert Robida. Published in weekly instalments in 1908, La guerre infernale gives the future-war genre a satirical edge, offering a scenario in which a global conflict of massive proportions breaks out in consequence of an argument between the German and the English ambassadors over the serving order of the dessert at a dinner. To add to the irony, the dinner is taking place during the Conférence de la paix, the annual meeting of a philanthropic organisation founded by Nicholas II of Russia in 1895. In 1937, the protagonist and narrator is covering the conference periodical summit at the Hȏtel de l’Entente Universelle in La Hague, for the Paris newspaper L’an 2000, when the war breaks out. While the conflict is triggered by a disagreement between European powers, the role of Japan and China in its outcome is a clear reminder of the Russo-Japanese War of a few years before.
Novelist, reporter, illustrator, watercolourist and engraver, Albert Robida (1848-1926) is today regarded as one of the founding fathers of science fiction, and recognised as a key figure on the cultural scene of the French Third Republic. He extensively worked as editor and collaborator of Paris periodicals such as La Caricature, and imagined visionary portrayals of a future society shaped by the technological inventions exhibited at International World Fairs such as Paris 1881, 1889, and 1900. During his life, he illustrated ninety-four books, of almost fifty of which he was sole author.
With Giffard – a fellow journalist specialised in sport, who covered the Russo-Japanese war in 1904 – Robida collaborated in various editorial projects already during the 1880s-1890s. These included the pictures for the humorous La vie en chemin de fer and La vie au théâtre(1887-1888) and La fin du cheval(1899) on the means of transports that were soon to replace horse-drawn carriages and the socio-economic advancements that they would bring about.
Giffard himself (1853-1922), after taking part in the 1870 war as one of the youngest lieutenants in the French armée auxiliaire, had become a journalist. He collaborated with numerous newspapers and periodicals including Le Figaro, covering, among other things, the technological developments in transport and communications exhibited at Paris 1878, and travelling the world as a correspondent, from war zones such as Algeria and southern Tunisia amongst others. Creator of French cycle and car races, he became editor-in-chief of Le Petit Journal in 1887, until moving to Le Vélo in 1896 after a few years of collaboration under a pseudonym, and then to L’Auto in 1904.
One may assume thatone of the reasons Giffard mentions for choosing a humorous slant in his work on the railway in the “Préface” of La vie en chemin de fer also applies to La guerre infernale :
… avec la forme humoristique l’auteur a pu s’assurer le concours de l’un des crayons les plus spirituels de notre époque, et c’est là un gros atout dans son jeu, pour ne pas dire plus.
He is referring to none other than Robida, of course, whose contribution is very likely to have been more than just illustrating: many themes and inventions are reprises of ideas and scenarios already imagined in the above-mentioned Le vingtième siècle, and its sequel La guerre au vingtième siècle, including means of instant communication, aerial means of transport, innovative weapons. Furthermore, La guerre infernale shares with other works by Robida an interest in social aspects (such as the role of women), and in the consequences of technology for everyday life and customs and habits. As Philippe Willems has summarised,
what really distinguishes Robida from other nineteenth-century writers of conjectural fiction is the depth of his portrayal of the future, the real-life dimension … halfway between Jules Verne’s detailed mechanical explanations and H. G. Wells’s psychological realism.
The global backdrop against which the protagonists’ adventures take place, unlike the mainly French and Parisian setting of Le vingtième siècleandLa vie electrique, is reminiscent of the Voyages très extraordinaires de Saturnin Farandoul(1880). Paris serves nonetheless as a barycentre for the adventures of La guerre infernale’s protagonist. It is to the French capital that he returns between his adventures in the Atlantic and in Russia, and it is to Paris that knowledge and news always flow and are collected and sorted, near the palaces where the crucial decisions are discussed by French authorities.
In fact,La guerre infernale plays up a global dimension brought onto the stage of individual experience and perception by the use of new means of transport and communication that earlier works by both Giffard and Robida had represented in different contexts and/or with different strategies. The first instalment, tellingly entitled La Planète en feu, presents the idea of a global dimension compressed by the instantaneous nature of the telephone: awoken in the middle of the night by a massive fire starting in La Hague, the protagonist discovers that a war has started, but is unable to track down the incident that originated it. He will receive news of what happened in the very same hotel he is staying at only via a colleague in Paris, who gets a phone call from La Hague at the Café Krasnapolski. Similarly, it is the telephone that makes it possible to deliver ultimatums and institutional communications in real time, activating the various alliances that cause the conflict to escalate first to a European and then to a global dimension.
Means of transport are at the centre stage from the very first pages, allowing the protagonist and his companions to travel throughout Europe and across the globe. They use an aérocar to head back to Paris, since the editor-in-chief asks the protagonist to cover the conflict for the newspaper L’an 2000, only to be redirected to the French aerial arsenal at the base in Mont Blanc.
The massive Mont Blanc arsenal (to the description of which the second instalment, Les Armées de l’air, is almost entirely devoted) includes a Leviathan formation composed by 150 attacking aircrafts, supported by a regiment of bicycle-sized, extremely manoeuvrable flying machines operated by couples of pilots and gunners. Furthermore, aerial warfare brings about consequences in the life of civilians (e.g. the use of individual shields and the construction of subterranean cities), in terms of tactics and strategies, and in the existence of specific authorities (e.g. the ministère de l’Aérotactique, ministry of aerotactic, already imagined in La vie électrique). A German bombing strikes the chemical section of the compound, where bacteriological weapons are being developed, causing 150 deaths. But tragedy of even bigger proportion is reported from Belfort, blown up by a massive quantity of explosives that German soldiers placed under the city using a gigantic tunnel excavated from the Black Forest.
The first part of the novel is devoted to the conflict as it unfolds in Europe, with the German Reich attacking the French Mont Blanc base as well as bombing cities in France and bringing war to the other side of the English Channel. After an aerial battle in the skies above London, the protagonists and his friends end up stranded above the Sargasso Sea, where the only way to allow the others to regain altitude and leave the polar region is to drop the body of a dead companion. The passage to the Atlantic marks the passage of the narrative backdrop from a European to a global scale.
Along with submarines and hommes-crabes (6), the naval warfare is no less impressive: over the Atlantic the protagonist admires the American warship Minnesota on patrol: “Mille tonnes de deplacement, cinq turbines, trois arbres à helicer, un developpement al 15000 chevaux faisaient alors du Minnesota le Croiseur le plus rapide du monde” (instalment 12: 380). When cholera is used to wage bacteriological warfare in Russia against Chinese armies, a “train sanitaire” operates between Orenburg and Rostov, to help infected “whites” (instalments 25 and 26).
Economic interconnectedness is also put to use by battling countries. During the first days of the war, Britain floods Germany with false Deutschmarks in order to sink its economy (instalment 5), and when European powers coalesce against the threat of an invasion from China a “yellow tax” is approved within the alliance to fund the war against Asian powers (instalment 21).
In fact, while there is a treaty in place at the beginning of the war between Japan and France and Japanese aviators are perfecting their training with the French Voleurs corps (instalment 8). When he arrives in North America, the protagonist learns that Japanese immigrants in California had long been preparing for the invasion of America, and that now, supported by troops from Japan, are engaged in terrible battles which caused thousands of deaths, and left every American survivor deranged due to the trauma, hospitalised in a dedicated facility.
Japan and the US fight a naval battle of epic proportions between the Bahamas, Cuba and Florida (instalments 15, 16). From Canada to Africa, the Japanese multiply their invasion plans, acting as the leading force behind which the Chinese are also mobilised. It is against the backdrop of the Atlantic space and with the Asian arrival on the scene that the conflict starts to assume a fully global scale and at the same time a clear racial connotation: the “yellow” threat leads “white” nations to overcome their current disagreements and strike up new alliances. The American president arguing for an alliance with the British warns about the prolificacy of Asian populations, contrasting it with the demographic decline of the “whites” (instalment 16). Japanese and Chinese armies invade California and block the Panama Canal (instalments 18 and 20), while Europeans helps Russia to construct a “muraille blanche,” “white great wall,” against the Chinese plans to invade Europe (instalment 21). The assassination of Tsar Nicholas II and a riot or revolution demanding a new constitution leaves Russian open to Chinese occupation (instalments 21-23).
The next post in the future wars series will offer some reflections on the theme of the ‘yellow peril’ and the representation of a nature bent by technology, and then discuss the subsequent developments of the representation of the war of the future in Robida’s creative journey.
 Pierre Giffard, La guerre infernale, illustrated by Albert Robida (Paris: Èdition Méricant, 1908), 30 weekly instalments, in-4°, 952 pp.
 For an overview on recent scholarship on Robida and indications for further reading: Iannuzzi, “The Cruel Imagination,” 194-195; secondary sources of particular note are: Philippe Brun, Albert Robida, 1848-1926. Sa vie, son œuvre. Suivi d’une bibliographie complète de ses écrits et dessins (Paris: Editions Promodis, 1984); Daniel Compère, ed., Albert Robida du passé au futur. Un auteur-illustrateur sous la IIIe République (Paris: Belles Lettres, 2006); Sandrine Doré, “Albert Robida (1848-1926), un dessinateur fin de siècle dans la société des images” (doctoral thesis, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, 2014).
 Jacques Seray, Pierre Giffard, précurseur du journalisme moderne. Du Paris-Brest à l’affaire Dreyfus (Toulouse: Le Pas d’oiseau, 2008); C.G.P.C.S.M.-Fontaine d’histoire, La Famille Giffard (Fontaine le Dun: Fontaine d’histoire, 2007).
 “… thanks to the humorous form, the author was able to secure the collaboration of one of the wittiest pencils of our time, who was a big asset to his work, to say the least.” Pierre Giffard, La vie en chemin de fer, illustrated by Albert Robida (Paris: A la Libraire illustrée, ), Bibliothèque nationale de France, Gallica, ark:/12148/bpt6k1028744.
 Marc Angenot, “Albert Robida’s Twentieth Century,” Science Fiction Studies 10, no. 2 (July 1983): 237-240; Philippe Brun, Albert Robida, 1848-1926. Sa vie, son œuvre. Suivi d’une bibliographie complète de ses écrits et dessins (Paris: Editions Promodis, 1984), 33; Philippe Willems, “A Stereoscopic Vision of the Future: Albert Robida’s Twentieth Century,” Science Fiction Studies 26, no. 3 (November 1999): 354-378, esp. 358 and note 7.
 On Robida’s representation(s) of women: Robida et l’émancipation de la Femme, thematic issue of Le Téléphonoscope. Bulletin des amis d’Albert Robida 21 (2014); Doré, “Albert Robida,” vol. 1, 98, 150-152, 244 note 825, 296-299; Sandrine Doré, “Entre caricature et anticipation, la Parisienne définie par Albert Robida (1848-1926),” L’art de la caricature, sous la direction de Ségolène Le Men (Nanterre: Presses universitaires de Paris Nanterre, 2011), electronic edition, doi: 10.4000/books.pupo.2233; Dominique Lacaze, “Albert Robida, Explorer of the Twentieth Century,” part I, “Technical Innovation” and part II, “The Invention of a Society,” Futuribles 366 (2010): 61-70, and 367 (2010): 65-76, see II, 72-73. Depictions of women in the army by Robida are to be found in La Vie parisienne, as early as 1875, and in Le Vingtième Siècle (1883).
 Albert Robida, Voyages très extraordinaires de Saturnin Farandoul dans les 5 ou 6 parties du monde et dans tous les pays connus et même inconnus de M. Jules Verne (Paris: Librairie illustrée- Librairie M. Dreyfous, 1880), Eng. trans. The Adventures of Saturnin Fanandoul, trans. Brian Stableford(Encino, CA: Black Coat Press, 2008).
 On the representation of France at war and its ideological ambivalence in La guerre infernale: Paul Bleton, “La guerre telle qu’elle pourrait être,” Lublin Studies in Modern Languages and Literature 39, no. 1 (2015): 64-75, see 67, 70.
 On the global conflict evoked in Le Vingtième siècle: Lacaze, “Albert Robida,” II, 74.
 See also André Lange, “En attendant la guerre des ondes: les technologies de communication dans les anticipations militaires d’Albert Robida,” Le Téléphonoscope. Bulletin des amis d’Albert Robida 11 (2004): 7-17.
 On Robida and aerial warfare: Alain Bernard, “Robida et les dirigeables,” Le Téléphonoscope. Bulletin des amis d’Albert Robida 10 (2003): 10-11; Marcellin Hodeir, “La guerre aérienne à travers la science-fiction: Albert Robida,” in Compère, Albert Robida, 117-126; here especially 120 for Robida’s inventions as extrapolations from technologies of his time.
 On the possible influence of Robida on Well’s imagination on biological warfare: Helena Costa and Josep-E. Baños, “Bioterrorism in the Literature of the Nineteenth Century: The Case of Wells and ‘The Stolen Bacillus,’” Cogent Arts & Humanities 3, no. 1, doi: 10.1080/23311983.2016.1224538, see 6-7.
This post is adapted from Iannuzzi, G. (2019). “The Illustrator and the Global Wars to Come: Albert Robida, La guerre infernale, and the Long History of Imagined Warfare”, Cromohs – Cyber Review of Modern Historiography, 22, 95-136; par. “Techno-apocalypses”, pp. 118-121. DOI: 10.13128/cromohs-11706. Full text available in open access: https://oajournals.fupress.net/index.php/cromohs/article/view/11706.
Great Expositions, temporal hierarchisation, and the birth of a global consciousness
According to Darko Suvin, “the instauration of capitalist production as the dominant and finally all-pervasive way of life engendered a fundamental reorientation of human practice and imagination: a wished-for or feared future becomes the new space of the cognitive (and increasingly of the everyday) imagination.”1 The expansion of the Western powers brought about techno-driven globalisation processes at an increased speed,2 bearing remarkable consequences in the development of a globalised consciousness, and of ideas and imageries deeply rooted in new knowledge concerning remote areas of the globe and their inhabitants.
The origins of this process can in fact be traced back to the multiple availability of sources deriving from geographical explorations, to the momentum thus gained by comparative and universal history during the late-modern age, and to the growing influence of Enlightenment ideas of progress and conjectural histories, organising civilisations according to subsequent stages of development.3
Notions regarding examples of radical “otherness” from remote parts of the globe conceptualised as remains of the common human past and instances of humanity in its infancy were decisive in fostering ideas of historical time as a dimension of progressive development. Ideas of degeneration and stagnation applied to other societies implied the use of the European civilisation as a standard against which other might be evaluated, and also brought about reflections on historical time as a frame of causal relations between phenomena and human actions. In ideas of a linear and irreversible historical time lies the – insufficient but necessary – precondition for the hierarchisations of societies and humans that will characterise a mature imperialistic phase.4
During the nineteenth century, these conceptualizations informed important expressions of popular culture, such as the Great Expositions, in which a temporal dimension was touched upon by central symbolic and discursive structures.5 Through the recreation of ancient Greek and Roman monuments, medieval quarters and villages, and the living ethno-expositions of alien humans presented as embodying primitive or early stages of civilisation,6international exhibitions effectively put on stage a temporal dimension, which culminated in sections devoted to the scientific and technological wonders of Western modernity and progress.
This temporal hierarchisation provided the ideological frame in which an increasing thematization of the future found a place, and this became central near the end of the century, with the 1889’s Eiffel Tower, Alva Edison’s pavilion of electric light, and the Hall of Machines. Conflating ideas of history and images of the globe7 in limited urban areas – or even in single attractions, such as George Wyld’s Great Globe in Leicester Square during the London Great Exhibition of 1851 – these expositions allowed visitors to complete a tour of the world on foot in a few hours. As one of the first and most effective “laboratories for a global space-time,”8 these exhibits made a decisive contribution to the elaboration of a science-fictional mind-set.9
The technological sublime, which became typical of early speculative-fiction literature and illustration, has the same cultural backdrop as Expos and Fairs, and is partly indebted to the exhibitionary strategies of those early pavilions. Expos embodied a growing interest in science and technology, helped to visualise their future effects on human society and the global environment, and put forward a use of technology not strictly utilitarian, but rather aimed at fostering asense of wonder in its spectators. As early as 1905 on Coney Island, with the dark ride A Trip to the Moon designed by Frederick Thompson, visitors could physically travel through scenic illusions, which staged a whole series of early science fiction tropes, from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (patented in 1903) to the North Pole, to a War of Worlds.10 The latter – which despite the similar title was not inspired by H. G. Wells’ novel of 1897 – enacted an attack on New York by (small-scale) European navies. This attraction was heir to the naumachias that, since the Roman world and throughout modern Europe, had constituted a form of entertainment and public spectacle,11 while also tapping into an“early-twentieth century frenzy for disaster spectacles, science fiction and ‘you are there’ adventure journeys.”12
It will come as no surprise that three years before publishing Vingt mille lieues sous les mers: Tour du monde sous-marin,Jules Verne visited the 1867 Paris Universal Exposition. Here Joseph-Martin Cabirol’s diving suit (an innovative version of Augustus Siebe’s creation) received a prize, and model of the 1863 submarine Le plongeur was on display, which became sources of inspiration along with the other latest literary and current events.13 By the turn of the century, the diorama and panorama attractions in the “Tour du Monde” pavilion at Paris 1900 had a distinctive Vernian twist, being a miniature version of his namesake 1872 novel,14 designed by Alexandre Marcel, with the collaboration of Louis Doumoulin, already known as the “Jules Verne du pinceau.”15
The “Tour du Monde” with its Arabian, Japanese, Chinese and Indian sections among others, compressed geographical distances and summarized global space through the juxtaposition of remote cultures. A 1900 report on the Expo by the French Ministère du commerce, de l’industrie, des postes et des télégraphes highlighted that the attraction was home to various dioramas and an “exotic theatre” with 300 seats, devoted to the “most curious countries” serviced by the French Compagnie des messageries maritimes. Here living “natives” demonstrated for the public everyday activities or traditional dances,16 albums illustrated with lavish photos documented the mises en scènes and became tokens of the Fair for visitors to collect, and to enjoy (again) the aesthetic marvels and visits of important personalities.17
Another section of Paris 1900, the “Vieux Paris” designed by journalist, illustrator and novelist Albert Robida, condensed historical time from the Middle Ages to the Eighteenth century into one attraction.18 The official report mentioned above described Robida’s attraction and documented it with numerous photos: “Le Vieux Paris se divisait en trois groupes principaux: quartier du moyen âge, s’étendant de la porte Saint-Michel (face au pont de l’Alma) à l’église Saint-Julien-des-Ménétriers; quartier des Halles au XVIIIème siècle; groupe formé par le Châtelet et le pont au Change (XVIIème siècle), la rue de la Foire Saint-Laurent (XVIIIème siècle) et le Palais (Renaissance).”19 The report highlighted the many leisures and attractions that animated the area, which included “a small battalion of figurants in costumes”: “Des établissements de spectacle, des restaurants, des cafés, de nombreuses boutiques pour la vente d’objets-souvenirs étaient installés dans le Vieux Paris et contribuaient à son animation. Un petit bataillon de figurants en costumes anciens peuplait la concession.”20 Among the dioramas described in the report, the exoticism of a Kremlin with special snow effects, was to be found alongside the techno-wonder of New York’s elevated railway.
Verne was among the authors featured in the Gazette du Vieux Paris: rédigée par une société d’écrivains des Annales politiques et littéraires, which Albert Robida designed to accompany the Vieux Paris section of the expo. The Gazette devoted fourteen four-page monographic issues to different moments in French history, and constituted a visual pendant of the recreation of pasts that was staged by architecture in the Vieux Paris section of the expo. From a first “Gallo-Roman” issue featuring Verne on “The Origin of Paris,” through a second “Merovingian” issue a third “Carolingian,” and so on, the Gazette was meant both as a guide to and souvenir from the exhibition. While contents celebrated French national spirit and its role in the birth of modern democracy, every issue embodied the era to which it was devoted, being printed on a different kind of paper, imitating fonts and illustration style of the period represented.21
In other works by Robida, the Great Expos is a central source of inspiration: Le vingtième siècle (1883), set in 1952, gives account of future society constructed around the inventions on show at the Paris 1881 Exposition Internationale d’Électricité. “Jadis chez aujourd’hui” (published in Le petit français illustré between 10 May and 14 June 1890) presents a time-travel fantasy featuring a scientist who resuscitates Molière and other literary figures and accompanies them to visit the Paris 1889 Exposition Universelle.22 The same ideas underpinning the design of the 1900 Vieux Paris are at work in such projections of a future Paris. Scenarios depicted in La guerre au vingtième siècle(1887)23 andLa guerre infernale (1908) are logically extrapolated from the present as a consequence of historical processes, of an irreversible time flow and causal mechanisms. Ideas of progress informed these fictions, as well as, on occasion, the terrible awareness of the potential consequences of using new technologies to develop weapons and military hardware.
1 Darko Suvin, Metamorphoses of Science Fiction: On the Poetics and History of a Literary Genre (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1979), 115-116.
2 Daniel R. Headrick, Power over People: Technology, Environments, and Western Imperialism, 1400 to the Present (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2012).
3 Guido Abbattista, “The Historical Thought of the French Philosophes,” in The Oxford History of Historical Writing, ed. José Rabasa, Masayuki Sato, Edoardo Tortarolo, and Daniel Woolf, vol. 3, 1400-1800 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 406-427; Georg G. Iggers and Q. Edward Wang, with contributions from Supriya Mukherjee, A Global History of Modern Historiography (London and New York: Routledge, 2013), 19-32; Daniel Woolf, A Global History of History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), esp. 280-343.
4 On temporal hierarchization from a cultural history perspective: Chris Lorenz and Berber Bevernage, eds., Breaking up Time: Negotiating the Borders between Present, Past and Future (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013).
5 Guido Abbattista, Giulia Iannuzzi, “World Expositions as Time Machines: Two Views of the Visual Construction of Time between Anthropology and Futurama,” World History Connected 13, no. 3 (2016), doi: 10.5281/zenodo.2652723.
6 Guido Abbattista, ‘Concepts and Categories in the History of World Expositions: Introductory Remarks,” in Abbattista, ed., Moving Bodies, Displaying Nations: National Cultures, Race and Gender in World Expositions Nineteenth to Twenty-First Century (Trieste: EUT, 2014), 7-20; and Abbattista, Umanità in mostra: Esposizioni etniche e invenzioni esotiche in Italia (1880–1940) (Trieste: EUT, 2014), esp. 32-36.
7 Alexander C. T. Geppert, “True Copies: Time and Space Travels at British Imperial Exhibitions, 1880-1930,” in The Making of Modern Tourism: The Cultural History of the British Experience, 1600-2000, ed. Hartmut Berghoff Barbara Korte, Christopher Harvie, Ralph Schneider (Basingstoke-New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), 223-248.
8 Roger Luckhurst, “Laboratories for Global Space-Time: Science-Fictionality and the World’s Fairs, 1851-1939,” Science Fiction Studies 39, no. 118 (2012): 385-400.
9 Brooks Landon, “SF Tourism,” in The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction, ed. Mark Bould, Andrew M. Butler, Adam Roberts, and Sherryl Vint (London and New York: Routledge, 2009), 32-41.
10 Woody Register, The Kid of Coney Island: Fred Thompson and the Rise of American Amusements (Oxford-New York: Oxford University Press, 2001): electronic edition, par. “The Crying Need for Novelty.”
11 Martha Pollak, Cities at War in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 284-286; Ignacio Ramos Gay, “Naumachias, the Ancient World and Liquid Theatrical Bodies on the Early 19th Century English Stage,” Miranda 11 (2015): 1-15, doi: 10.4000/miranda.6745.
12 John S. Berman, Coney Island (New York: Barnes & Noble, 2003), 34; see also William J. Phalen, Coney Island: 150 Years of Rides, Fires, Floods, the Rich, the Poor and Finally Robert Moses (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2016), 114.
13 William Butcher, “Introduction” and “Appendix: Sources of Ideas on Submarine Navigation,” in Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas, trans. William Butcher (1870; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), ix-xxxi, 382-384, see xiv and 383; Smithsonian Libraries, Fantastic Worlds: Science and Fiction 1780-1910, “Sea Changes,” website of the exhibition, July 1, 2015 – February 26, 2017,https://library.si.edu/exhibition/fantastic-worlds/sea-change.
14 Roger Benjamin, Orientalist Aesthetics: Art, Colonialism, and French North Africa, 1880-1930 (Berkley-Los Angeles-London: University of California Press, 2003), 114.
15 Julien Béal, “Le Japon dans la collection photographique du peintre Louis-Jules Dumoulin (1860-1924) ,” Hal – Archives ouvertes 2017, hal-01517490v1: see 3 and note 9.
16 Alfred Picard (Ministère du commerce, de l’industrie, des postes et des télégraphes), Exposition universelle internationale de 1900 à Paris. Rapport général administratif et technique (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1902-1903), 8 vols., vol. 7, 226; accessed via Bibliothèque numérique en histoire des sciences et des techniques, http://cnum.cnam.fr.
17Le Panorama. Exposition universelle 1900, sous la direction de René Baschet, avec les photographies de Neurdein frères et Maurice Baschet Publisher (Paris: Ludovic Baschet éd., 1900).
18 Exposition Universelle de 1900. Le Vieux Paris: guide historique, pittoresque et anecdotique (Paris: Ménard et Chaufour, 1900), booklet, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Gallica, ark:/12148/bpt6k201257n; see here, xviii-xiv for Robida as “maistre de l’oeuvre” and a list of his main collaborators. See also Elizabeth Emery and Laura Morowitz, Consuming the Past: The Medieval Revival in fin-de-siècle France (Burlington: Ashgate, 2003), esp. ch. 7 “Feasts, fools and festivals: the popular Middle Ages,” 171-208; Robida, créateur du Vieux Paris à l’Exposition Universelle de 1900, thematic issue of Le Téléphonoscope. Bulletin des amis d’Albert Robida 9 (2002), esp. Jean-Claude Viche, “Bibliographie sommaire sur «le Vieux Paris» de Robida,” 2.
19 “The Vieux Paris is divided into three main parts: the Middle Age district, extending from Porte Saint-Michel (opposite to the Alma Bridge) to the Saint-Julien-des-Ménétriers church; the district of the XVIII century halls; a quarter formed by the Châtelet and the Change bridge (XVII century), the Foire Saint-Laurent street (XVIII century) and the Palace (Renaissance).” Picard, Exposition universelle, vol. 7, 240, see also 244, where the report specifies that the area occupied by the Vieux Paris was 1.918-square meters large, and that to this had to be added a 250-meters long and 3.900-square meters large area of corbelled constructions along the Seine.
20 “Entertainments, restaurants, cafes, and numerous souvenirs shops were installed in the Vieux Paris and contributed to its animation. A small battalion of extras in costumes from ancient eras populated the concession.” Picard, Exposition universelle, vol. 7, 244.
21 On the Gazette: Christine A. Roth, “The Narrative Promise: Redesigning History in La Gazette du Vieux Paris,” CEA Critic 78 no. 1 (March 2016): 116-128; Patrice Carré, “Paris perdu, Paris mis en pages… En feuilletant la Gazette du Vieux Paris,” Le Téléphonoscope. Bulletin des amis d’Albert Robida 9 (2002), 19-21.
22 Cf. John Clute et al., “Robida, Albert,” in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, ed. John Clute, Peter Nicholls, and David Langford, last modified January 4, 2019, accessed December 10, 2019, http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/robida_albert; Dominique Lacaze, “Albert Robida, Explorer of the Twentieth Century,” part I, “Technical Innovation” and part II, “The Invention of a Society,” Futuribles 366 (2010): 61-70, and 367 (2010): 65-76.
23 Albert Robida, La guerre au vingtième siècle (Paris: Georges Decaux, 1887), this is a short, lavishingly illustrated novel in a stand-alone 51-pages volume; under the same title – “La guerre au vingtième siècle” – Robida published also a short story in La Caricature, 27 October 1883, 337-343.
This post is adapted from Giulia Iannuzzi, “The Illustrator and the Global Wars to Come: Albert Robida, La guerre infernale, and the Long History of Imagined Warfare”, Cromohs – Cyber Review of Modern Historiography, 22 (2019): 95-136; par. “Exhibiting temporal hierarchizations”, pp. 105-110. Full text available in open access: https://oajournals.fupress.net/index.php/cromohs/article/view/11706.
The cultural construction of race and the racialization of the enemy in narratives and illustrations between the end of the Nineteenth and the first years of the Twentieth century
A particularly graphic chapter in the history of Western perceptions of the East is represented by the Yellow Peril trope, proliferating in a wave of narratives and illustrations between the end of the Nineteenth and the first years of the Twentieth century.
This trope fascinates me as I find it an apt example of how the cultural construction of race and of a racialized enemy may work in popular-culture products. The yellow peril idea also interacted especially with future scenarios and proto-sciencefictional imagination. Continue reading “Yellow Perils from a Future Past”