English provincial newspapers and the politics of the Seven Years' War, 1756-1763.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts (Hons)
This thesis examines the treatment of the national political events of the Seven Years' War by six provincial newspapers. It seeks to establish the connections between the reporting of those political issues and provincial political opinion. In doing so, it attempts to answer whether there existed a distinctive provincial 'political consciousness'. Only comment and reporting in provincial newspapers on national issues is studied, with reference to the reaction of some London newspapers to the same issues. Local politics are dealt with only incidentally. It is argued that to understand the significance of newspaper comment it is first necessary to take account of the limitations of the evidence: the way the newspapers were produced, the audience for which they were intended, and the potential size and breadth of that audience. The conclusion is drawn that a picture of provincial political opinion, although a distorted one, can be formed from the contents of the newspapers. Those contents show that the six papers differed significantly from their metropolitan counterparts only in few instances, and that generally they presented what can be described as an 'opposition version of politics'. Nevertheless, signs of the emergence of provincial political independence are apparent in the provincial newspapers of the war period. It is suggested further that this growing articulacy points to the emergence of a distinctive provincial political identity. These conclusions add to the wider view of national politics in the l750s and l760s. There is evidence for the survival of local political divisions on party lines in provincial cities at a time when it has been suggested party divisions had disappeared in high politics. Additionally, the evidence of the six newspapers supports the picture of the growth of a wider 'political nation' during the 1750s and its active and independent interest in political issues before the Wilkes and North American stamp tax controversies of the 1760s.