Understanding Media’: Theories of the Press in Britain, 1850-1914

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the theories of the press that circulated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, relating them to their economic, political and intellectual contexts. It argues that elite discussions of the press often stood in for discussions of the changing relationship between the elite and popular classes. In the mid-19th century, and ideal of the press as an `educational' agency predominated; the press should involve readers in a public discussion that contributed to self-government. As the electorate and reading public expanded, this ideal began to decline and give way to an ideal of the press as `representing' the people. In this formulation, the ordinary reader was not credited with rational thinking, and instead of involving readers in a public discussion, this theory proposed that newspapers should speak for the readers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213 - 231
Number of pages19
JournalMedia, Culture & Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • intellectual history
  • journalism
  • media studies
  • political culture
  • radical politics


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