“Nineteenth-century social history,” David Cannadine remarks in History in Our Time, “should be primarily concerned with the recovery and the nuances and subtleties and ambiguities of [...] associational life – an associational life much more rich and varied than that which took place in the very different societies which Britain was in the eighteenth and the twentieth centuries”[1]

In an age when expanding railways transformed landscapes, giving rise to fresh perceptions of time and space and allowing the products of industry, whether goods or services, to reach consumers almost instantly, human activity changed beyond recognition. As the industrial society became more complex and mobile, professional networks developed, creating wide circulatory systems throughout the four nations of the United Kingdom.

An emblematic feature and efficient agent of this new outreach was certainly the periodical press which, in Britain as well as Ireland, met with a spectacular growth over the century. According to John North, the general editor of The Waterloo Directory of English, Irish and Scottish Newspapers and Periodicals, 1800-1900, over 3,900 Irish titles, 7,300 Scottish titles and over 100,000 English titles were produced during this period and eagerly consumed by a more and more literate public.[2] Predicated upon topicality and periodicity, newspapers and magazines developed ways of addressing their specific readerships, gathering them into what Benedict Anderson has called “imagined communities” through which they perceived but also actively constructed their environment.

While much has been written on the daily press as a privileged space in which social and political formations could construct and convey their discourses, the concept of networking as part of the structure of journalism has received less scholarly attention. “[A] ghostly dynamic of interlocking structures, referenced but otherwise invisible,” to quote Laurel Brake, nineteenth-century journalistic collaborations largely determined the processes of creation, production, distribution and even reception of printed matter.[3]

The object of this symposium will be to examine the nature, extent and workings of the networks within the British and Irish press in the long nineteenth-century. From the alliances and rivalries of exclusive publishing communities to the complex web of working relationships between artists, publishers, editors, authors, wood-engravers and printers, British and Irish newspapers were undoubtedly the result of a series of overlapping collaborations which often extended beyond national borders. A “tapestry of self-identifications” was woven through multiple connections including family dynasties (like the Vizetellys in London), corporate identities, cultures of dissent (like “Bohemia”), titles or brands (like the Punch series and by-products), but also, as Patrick Leary has documented, through “the pervasive medium of oral culture in which those networks formed and operated: the culture of conversation in clubs, taverns, coffee-houses, offices, theatres, galleries, dinner parties and, most particularly, the workplace”.[4]

Our keynote will be Professor David Finkelstein (University of Plymouth), a renowned specialist of nineteenth-century cultural history, print culture and media history whose edited Edinburgh History of the British and Irish Press, volume 2: Expansion and Evolution, 1800-1900 has recently been published by EUP (2020).


Organizers :

[1] Cannadine, David. History in Our Time. New Haven and London : Yale University Press, 1998, pp. 185-86.

[2] Finkelstein, David (Ed.), The Edinburgh History of the British and Irish Press, Volume 2. Expansion and Evolution, 1800-1900, EUP, 2020, p. 8.

[3] Brake, Laurel. "Time's Turbulence"/ Mapping Journalism Networks, VPR 44(2), 2011, pp. 115-27, p. 115.

[4] Leary, Patrick. The Punch Brotherhood: Table Talk and Print Culture in Mid-Victorian London. London, The British Library, 2010, pp. 1-2, 7.







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