Old newspapers behave as a window. They give us a glimpse into the past and present us with real clues to the zeitgeist of the time. It’s why the newspaper archive has long been a vital cog in historical research. It’s allowed people studying a given period of history to get an insight in to the approach of editors and the manner in which this method was received by the readership. And whereas newspapers were undoubtedly at their peak in the UK from around 1860 to 1910, the influence of the printed press on the populace should never be underestimated. The media’s coverage of both world wars, as reported at home, are prime examples.
During World War One, as an example, there’s little doubt newspapers were fully expected to print what the federal government wanted. The us government were desperate for the British people to trust what they needed seriously to believe. The result was no-holds-barred propaganda, in which the media bigwigs were pleased to play along. Headlines during the time included “Belgium child’s hands stop by Germans” and “Germans crucify Canadian officer”. naija news Both were nonsense, but old newspaper articles similar to this, along with accounts of babies skewered on German bayonets, cemented public hatred of ‘the hun’ ;.Atrocities aside, facts and casualty figures were less than accurate, too, and were always ’tilted’ in British favour.
It absolutely was a ploy that worked, though. Actually, it was the Brits’ brilliant use of propaganda that would later serve as Hitler’s benchmark. He’d point to the success in ensuring German propaganda during World War Two was as effective as possible. His appointment of Joseph Goebbels as Reich Minister of Propaganda was also a shrewd move – evil yet gifted, Goebbels made sure German propaganda through the 30s and 40s was devastatingly effective.
As such, it was imperative British propaganda competed with Nazi Germany’s during World War Two. Newspaper coverage played no small part in this and understandably fell in line with the government’s will to manage national morale, along with keeping it as high as possible. But unlike 30-odd years previously, this was achieved with an assortment of both astute reporting and outright propaganda. Publications including The Daily Express, The Daily Mirror and The Times therefore played a vital role in shaping public perceptions of the war. They fed the public’s appetite with a calculated mix of pop culture on the one hand and war coverage on the other. The latter was often delivered on an individual and emotional level, by relating events to individuals.
Today, historians point out these old newspaper articles as playing an essential role in assisting maintain the nation’s belief in the cause, particularly after 1939. Many of these papers, especially The Daily Express, served as Churchill’s mouthpiece and, when combined with mediums like radio and cinematic propaganda, cemented and invigorated the country’s bulldog spirit. Consider it similar to this – historiography typically suggests that as soon as a country’s morale is broken, their war is lost. Italy’s capitulation in 1943 was an incident in point. It couldn’t eventually Britain. Thankfully, it didn’t.
Of course, the usefulness of old newspapers isn’t confined to providing historical accounts of war and suffering. They can also be used to get perspective on anything you are actually interested in. Getting your hands on them isn’t an issue either, with websites letting you select a particular publication and date, often going back in the first half of the 19th century.