Newspapers and Public Opinion: Neutralizing Suicide?

R. A. Houston

in Punishing the Dead?

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780199586424
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191595356 | DOI:
Newspapers and Public Opinion: Neutralizing Suicide?

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Newspapers flourished in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, apparently turning suicide into a mundane fact. In reality, newspapers seldom reported local suicides and then in negative ways. By close analysis of the wording and content of provincial newspapers from Scotland and northern England, this chapter exposes how reporting used the suicides of women and the lower classes to draw attention to social problems. The press located it in urban and industrial communities, extending sympathy only to women whose frailties rendered them victims; in this they followed classical literary stereotypes. Far from normalizing suicide, newspapers used it to delineate the moral community of their male, middle‐ and upper‐class readers. The chapter exposes the differences between provincial and London reporting, as well as between the Scottish and English newspapers. It relates reporting to ideas of sympathy in the Enlightenment.

Keywords: England; Scotland; enlightenment; philosophy; newspapers; media; gender; sympathy; regions; London

Chapter.  17822 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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