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Serving the Republican Regime

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Serving the Republican Regime

The end of the English Civil Wars (1642–1651) brought radicalism and political volatility,  which presented new challenges for the fledgling newspaper industry. Journalists needed to navigate uncharted political territory, and their papers very quickly adopted novel ideas and innovative methods for conveying the news. The greatest challenge, involved a republican regime which, like those of earlier and later generations, sought to tame the industry, and exploit its potential for political purposes.

A true copy of the journal of the High Court of Justice, for the tryal of K. Charles I. London, 1684

The trial of Charles I in January 1649 was one of the defining events of the seventeenth century. The image above depicts the masses of people who crowded into Westminster Hall. Amongst those present during the trial were a number of journalists, who reported on the proceedings in their newspapers.


The king’s trial highlighted the difficulty which weekly newspapers had in keeping up with rapidly changing events. A number of journalists responded by producing special issues after each day’s court proceedings had ended. Such reports also offered evocative verbatim accounts of the heated courtroom exchanges between the king and his prosecutors.


The 1640s also witnessed the emergence of increasingly radical political ideas which were well represented in newspapers like Gilbert Mabbott’s The Moderate. Mabbott had strong ties to the parliamentarian army, and perhaps even to groups on the radical republican fringe, such as the Levellers.


Government interest in the newspaper industry was evident from the work of men like Walter Frost, who had been involved in intelligence gathering and pamphlet-writing for Parliament during the Civil Wars. Frost was employed as secretary to the Council of State, and his newspaper was produced by Parliament’s official printers. These favors helped to ensure his reputation as an official “newshound.”


A continuation of the narrative being the third and fourth days proceedings ... London, 1649

The moderate: impartially communicating martial affaires to the kingdome of England. London, 1648

A Brief relation of some affairs and transactions, civil and military, both forraign and domestique. London, 1650

Exhibition Highlights

Censorship and the Free Press

Elections and Party Politics


To Kill the King?

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