Wasson’s ‘The Whigs and the Press, 1800–50′


This article provides a strong counter argument to the general perception that Whig politicians failed to properly control or even utilise the rising power of British press in the first half of the nineteenth century. The article is separated into five substantive parts, each of which provide an encapsulated and well evidenced argument regarding the concrete connections between politicians and newspapers editors, including direct contributions to existing journals, support for cheap publications such as the Penny Magazine, and through strong friendships and congenial working relationships. The breadth of manuscript and newspaper evidence in this section makes it worthy of particularly close attention. The article also highlights the independence of key Whig journals and their often inconsistent relationship with the party they supposedly supported. Particularly rewarding for this reviewer was the holistic coverage of the British press, including key provincial English and Scottish journals, so often neglected in studies of high politics. The final section deal with the hypocrisy of maintaining ‘taxes on knowledge’ during their control of Parliament, which Wasson sympathetically excuses on the grounds of very real fiscal crises.

Overall the piece provides a highly engaging, robust (if perhaps still preliminary) rebuttal to traditional treatments of the Whig-Newspaper relationship. The style of discourse also makes it a useful resources for those teaching newspaper history, and demonstrating the value of extra-periodical source material to students.

May Be Useful To Those Studying

  • Press history
  • The Whig Party
  • British Parliamentary Politics, 1800-1850
  • The history of political public relations


Wasson, Ellis Archer. “The Whigs and the Press, 1800–50.” Parliamentary History 25, no. 1 (2006): 68–87.

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