Print, Politics and Public Opinion

NEWSPAPERS IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY

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Newspapers in the nineteenth century, like the internet, mobile phones and social media in our own age, transformed communications and information.

To some they represented positive progress; others thought them dangerous.

By the late eighteenth century, weekly newspapers were well-established in many English counties. Berrow’s Worcester Journal, Derby Mercuryand Aris’s Birmingham Gazettewere founded in 1709, 1732 and 1741 respectively. For liberal commentators the rise of the newspaper press was a sign of intellectual progress. By spreading information, newspapers would create a rational public opinion and act as a force for reform.

However, for the Tory governments that held office in Britain almost continuously between 1783 and 1830, newspapers were dangerous. They feared that cheap print would spread radical doctrines among the lower classes, leading to social unrest and even revolution.

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