The Rise and Fall of the Fourth Estate: Britain's Press and the World Wars
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This study is neither a political chronicle of Britain's involvement in the two world wars nor a comprehensive history of the British press during that period; rather, it is an examination of two of the most important men in the press - their relationships with the government, their impact on foreign policy and public opinion, and how their actions affected the rest of the press. This last is perhaps most important; it was the remarkable political capital possessed by Lord Northcliffe, owner of the great London Times and the popular Daily Mail, which made accusations of undue influence plausible both to the public and to the press itself. Believing these accusations, conscious of its perceived responsibility and power, the press's concept of its own role changed in such a way as to help create and sustain the policy of appeasement. Having learned that a paper could bring about a war, the men of Fleet Street set about to prevent the next one, or at least to avoid being blamed for it, through a careful policy of shielding the public from reality and printing nothing that would offend either their government or those of foreign nations. In this way they hoped to maintain a state of calm and thereby prevent conflict; instead, they did as much to bring about the war in 1939 as did their counterparts in 1914.