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British Press in 1840-1860s - Essay Example

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The British press has a popular reputation around the world as a 'free' press', not dependant upon the government or ruling classes for its information. The revolution began early, with the 17th Century Civil War being influenced and reported by pamphleteers: those who we would now call journalists…
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British Press in 1840-1860s
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Download file to see previous pages However, these attempts failed, and when the editor of a radical paper was sued in 1819, "The paper's circulation rose by over 50 per cent" (Curren, 1991, 12). Even the Stamp duty on paper, which was increased massively between 1789 and 1815 (Curren, page 13), was not enough to control the radical papers, and in 1836 the Government reduced the duty by three quarters: the intention was to "Put down the unstamped papers" (Curren, page 14). In fact, by the middle of the 1840's the intent had changed to influencing the workers "To secure the loyalty of the working classes to the social order" (Curren, page 27).
The beginnings of the popular press, were therefore in the intention of the government to suppress and smother the radical working-class papers which had appeared in the later Georgian era. Influenced by the rise of newspapers backed by men with money, the campaigners in the 1830's demanded the development of a free market: "Free tradewould 'give to men of capital and respectability the power of gaining access by newspapersto the minds of the working classes'" (Curren, 1991, 29).
Other developments also influenced the growth of the press in this twenty-year period. The first was the blossoming of working class literacy, from about two-thirds of men and half of women in 1841 to four fifths of men and three quarters of women in 1871:
In addition, the twent...
In addition, the twenty years between 1840 and 1860 saw a growth in the industrialization of the press, which meant that each paper could now achieve higher sales, with numbers of papers rising from " 200 in 1846 to 750 in 1865" (Newsome, 1998, page 144). There were nearly four times as many papers available in 1860 than were there in 1840; but these were not the same papers which had been produced in the 1790's. The huge machines which now printed newspaper runs, and the repeal of taxes served to increase the running costs of the papers: by 1855, the prime minister was told "That a capital of about 20,000 was needed to start a London daily paper" (Curren, 1991, page 36). What this meant is that by the 1850's, most of the newspapers being produced where owned and established by the wealthy: land magnates, factory owners, and the upper-middle and upper classes. Other papers, such as the Morning Post, began as Whig supporters, and were turned into Tory publications by new owners (Cambridge, chapter 9). In addition, the price of a newspaper had risen from about 1d before the Stamp Duty repeals to 3 or 4d afterwards.

These were the first effects upon the social fabric of the working class; between 1830 and 1840, the popular press became more and more focused on capitalism, and its readership centered upon the middle classes, and the lower classes fell back into pamphlets, or 'penny dreadfuls' as they were known in the Victorian era.
Much of the concern came from clergymen, journalists and magistrates
Who seem to have assumed that the penny dreadful readership was
Almost entirely young, working class and male (Chris Willis, 2000)
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