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Print - The British Bee Hive
  • The British Bee Hive
    Cruikshank, George, born 1792 - died 1878
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The British Bee Hive

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (printed and published)

  • Date:

    1840 (designed)
    1867 (printed and published)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Cruikshank, George, born 1792 - died 1878 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs. George Cruikshank

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E, case I, shelf 94

Cruikshank's image of the bee hive as a metaphor for society is based on an idea developed by the economist Adam Smith in the 1770s which suggested that social status and social identity were primarily determined not by social, religious or political rank, but by occupation and by an individual's relation to the means of production. So in this print the hierarchy of British society is presented as a pyramid showing each profession's relative importance and status. Bees are a singularly industrious species in which there are clear divisions of labour, and have been used as a metaphor for human social structures since Roman times.

Place of Origin

London (printed and published)


1840 (designed)
1867 (printed and published)


Cruikshank, George, born 1792 - died 1878 (artist)

Materials and Techniques


Marks and inscriptions

Designed in the year 1840 - by George Cruikshank and altered & etched by him in Feby. 1867 - & Pubd. in March 67

Published by the Artist And Sold by W. Tweedie 337 Strand-: LONDON

Object history note

One of seven copies of the pamphlet 'The British Bee Hive'.

Descriptive line

George Cruikshank, pamphlet, 'The British Bee Hive'.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Rank. Picturing the social order 15-16-2009 Sunderland: Northern Gallery for Comtemporary Art, 2009. ISBN: 978-0-9549119-3-5

Subjects depicted

Social order


Caricatures & Cartoons


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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