MELLER, PAUL, JONATHAN
Doctoral Thesis, Durham University (2010)
There has been a general historiographical concentration on the twentieth century in terms of modern propaganda, much due to the impact of the First World War. However, it is the premise of this thesis that while the First World War was a propagandistic watershed, the sixty years preceding it were of equal importance in terms of the formation of modern propaganda in Britain.
The aim of this thesis then is to address this gap by considering the nature, meaning and operation of propaganda in this period. In order to accomplish this, this thesis creates a set of criteria for identifying and distinguishing ‘modern’ propaganda, before demonstrating that what is generally conceived as modern, and characteristic of the twentieth century, in fact existed or was developing in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
This is achieved firstly by conducting a survey of the etymology and theory of propaganda in this period in order to demonstrate how contemporaries understood that phenomenon; secondly, by analysing the Crimean War as the progenitor of the development of a modern form of propaganda; thirdly, by considering how the vast political, social, economic and technological changes that took place in the period 1854-1902 created an environment in which modern propaganda not only could emerge, but had to; and fourthly, by examining the Boer War as the zenith of this process and an example of a modern propagandistic environment.
It will be argued that modern propaganda not only developed and existed in this period, but its study can open up a dialogue between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in terms of propaganda and thereby contribute to debates that still occupy historians of propaganda today, particularly the place of propaganda in democracy. If historians are to understand the propagandistic upheavals of the twentieth century, they must first look to where such propaganda came from, why it developed and what form these developments took in a world untainted by the memory of a World War.