Discourses of criminality in the eighteenth-century press: the presentation of crime in The Kentish Post, 1717–1768

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Abstract

In the eighteenth century the newspaper became the most important source for the printed dissemination of criminological stories and information. In bringing together thousands of narratives about crime and justice it far outstripped any other printed source of the period. As the primary literary means of accessing stories and information about crime, it is likely that newspapers influenced their readers' perceptions of and attitudes towards crime and the justice system. This article offers a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the crime content of one provincial newspaper, The Kentish Post, or Canterbury Newsletter. The study reveals the newspaper to have been constructed to a template, which privileged crime as one of its most important subjects. However, the editorial imperatives of compiling a regular text with an unprecedented number of stories resulted in a discourse of the nature, causes and consequences of crime very different to that expounded in the pamphlet literature, which had been the mainstay of printed discourses about crime before the arrival of newspapers and with which historians are more familiar.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-47
Number of pages34
JournalContinuity and Change
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2007

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