The Political and Social Impact of Newspapers in Stuart England JOE MURPHY-O’CONNOR Context and Introduction Ian Atherton - Stuart England’s ‘Information Revolution’ What is a ‘newspaper’? We will examine: How accessible were the newspapers and was there an interest from the population? How far did censorship define political views and writing? How big an impact did newspapers have on society, and did it blur the lines between social classes in any way? What role did newspapers have in shaping the history of this period? A Brief Summary of the Advent of the Newspaper Singles news pamphlets, reporting foreign battles and domestic news, were the only means of receiving news, and often only the elite would have access Not until 1620 that the first English language news serials were published - Amsterdam The first news serials were published in England in 1621 – seen as ‘superficial’ November 1641 - The first English weekly newsbook, The Heads of Severall Proceedings in this Present Parliament, was published, and within a matter of weeks, it had seven rivals. Frank – The Beginnings of the English Newspaper – ‘Coming of Age’ Frank’s Three Presumptions Frank writes that the writers and editors of every newspaper made three basic assumptions about the public, which allows us to partially answer these questions. Firstly, they assumed that people were interested in news Secondly, there was an assumption they could be influenced by how that news was presented Thirdly, is that the dissemination of news was itself good Mercurius Aulicus - ‘You heard last weeke of the affrights and terrours which the prevailing faction in the pretended Houses were fallen into… and shall now heare of the confusions and distractions they are in at home…’ Literacy Rates – Not accessible to everyone A Threat to Those in Power? Letter from William Cavendish, the Duke of Newcastle, to Charles II ‘there is another error that does overheat your people extremely, and does your Majesty much harm, that every man now has become a statesman, both home and abroad, merely due to the weekly gazette. Domestic or foreign gazettes, therefore, should be forbidden.’ This highlights the impact which newspapers had on those power, and how society saw them Jürgen Habermas’s notion of a “structural transformation of the public sphere” Blurring of social classes? The Attraction for the Readers Athenian Mercury – Is believed to be the first newspaper to include an advice column For example, a question published on 7th November 1693 is one from a tradesman who has encountered financial difficulty, and asks for advice on how to maintain his reputation and keep his economic difficulties quiet. The reply expresses sympathy, saying ‘We are very sorry that so honest a man as you seem to be, shou’d meet with such disappointments…’ and then goes on to suggest ways in which to achieve what is desired Expensive? Political Bias Civil War ‘danger is so great that may fall by the same, that such course must be taken by both houses of Parliament, that shal prevent future danger threatned, and secure that bleeding Kingdome with speedy reliefe, desiring a speedy answer from his Maiesty to the same,’ Marchamont Nedham – Wrote Mercurius Britanicus – Differing styles of writing Then went on to write Mercurius Pragmaticus – Royalist newsbook Provokes questions about the political writing of this time, and highlights its importance The newspaper as a vehicle for philosophical views Shaping The History of the Time What role did it play in shaping the history of this period? Atherton - ‘new technology of information dissemination,’ Somerville – Explicit comparisons with the invention of the internet Dooley – Extending the people’s experience beyond their surroundings The impact on the Civil War The Impact on the Royal Family and Parliament Newspapers played a huge role in shaping events of the time – Changed the political and social landscape for many of the population Conclusion How accessible were the newspapers and was there an interest from the population? How far did censorship define political views and writing? How big an impact did newspapers have on society, and did it blur the lines between social classes in any way? What role did newspapers have in shaping the history of this period?