The weird arms race between Napoleon and England
If you were a higher-up in the British Empire in the late 1790s, you were probably a little freaked out, and understandably so. You'd just said goodbye to the American colonies and watched the French populace rise up in bloody revolution against their monarchic government—and now French general Napoleon Bonaparte was seizing territory all over Europe and even beyond. You wouldn't be crazy to think that the general had his eye on the British Isles next. But exactly how you expected the French armies to land on British shores... let's just say the Brits let their imaginations run away with them a little bit.
For your viewing pleasure, we've collected a series of slightly bonkers popular engravings of imaginary invasion methods dating between 1798 and 1805, when the Napoleon's troops seemed to be looming on the horizon.
Napoleon's moving castle
This slightly histrionic plan from 1798 shows perhaps the most visually striking paranoid fantasy to come out of the period. In it, a massive windmill-propelled barge carries not only 60,000 men but also an entire castle across the English Channel.
This... thing, part 2
Oh look, a real boat
Dating to 1803, when hostilities broke out again after a hiatus, this print showing "A Correct VIEW of the FRENCH FLAT-BOTTOM BOATS intended to convey their TROOPS for the INVASION of ENGLAND" is a little more realistic. As the National Maritime Museum explains,
Unlike the earlier prints... with their monstrous and bizarre 'rafts' for transporting huge numbers of troops, this shows much more feasible vessels and appears to be based on much better founded information.
"My ass in a band box"
Balloons, ships, and a tunnel
So what actually happened? None of the above. Urged on by fears of French innovation, the British government invested heavily in defense measures, including a number of forts and a massive naval blockade of the Channel. Napoleon's attempt to piece together a big enough flotilla to break through the blockade ended up being a major flop.