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THE PRESS, PATRIOTISM, AND PUBLIC DISCUSSION: C. P. SCOTT, THE MANCHESTER GUARDIAN, AND THE BOER WAR, 1899–1902

  • MARK HAMPTON (a1)

Abstract

This article demonstrates the connections between journalism, patriotism, and the culture of public discussion in late Victorian Britain, taking as a case study C. P. Scott's use of the Guardian in opposing the Boer War. It asserts that while opposing the war, Scott was simultaneously trying to redefine ‘patriotism’ and preserve a rapidly waning ideal of the press as an agent of public discussion, two interrelated goals. In contrast to a predominant image of the patriot as blind supporter of the government's imperial expansionism, the Guardian put forth an ideal of a critical patriotism. At the same time, Scott rejected the prevailing contemporary notion that the press should merely ‘represent’ the readers' interests. Instead, he sought to use leading articles and news reports to encourage a culture of public discussion. Scott's journalistic and political goals overlapped, as his notion of patriotism required maintaining a healthy public sphere. Although this study demonstrates Scott's role in the persistence of critical ideals of patriotism and journalism, it concludes that Scott had to content himself with appealing to an elite audience.

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This essay was originally presented at the 1997 meeting of the North American Conference on British Studies. In addition, the author would like to thank David Bobbit, James Epstein, Philip Harling, and an anonymous reader for the Historical Journal for their generous feedback on earlier versions of this essay. All references from the Manchester Guardian Archives are reproduced by courtesy of the Librarian and Director of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester.

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