Jingoism, Public Opinion, and the New Imperialism: Newspapers and imperial rivalries at the fin de siècle

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Abstract

This essay analyses late-Victorian understandings of the relationship between the press, imperial diplomacy, and popular enthusiasm for empire, and examines how newspapers explained their own role in the imperial rivalries of the 1890s. During imperial disputes between Britain and France (particularly the Fashoda crisis) and between Britain and the United States (the Venezuela boundary dispute) contemporaries claimed that self-interested ‘jingo’ elements of the political elite had sought to foment conflict by manipulating ‘public opinion’, but had been defeated by statesmen (who had used the press for legitimate diplomatic purposes) and by ‘the people’ (who were averse to war). This contrasted with contemporary comments about the role played by the press in provoking wars between the United States and Spain and between Britain and the Transvaal: both the press and the people seemed to succumb to an irrational popular ‘jingoism’, and to sweep statesmen along in their wake. However, this essay argues that these contemporary verdicts about the role of newspapers in focusing popular imperialism have been too easily accepted by historians. During the imperial rivalries of the 1890s the press played an important role as a medium of transnational communication, but did not push statesmen into expansionism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-50
Number of pages17
JournalMedia History
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

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