The British Press and the American Colonies

America was always newsworthy in the 18th century, but, writes Wallace Brown, the emphasis was on exotic items, heroic or villainous.

Lloyd's Evening Post front page, 10 August 1796
Lloyd's Evening Post front page, 10 August 1796

The maturing of the American colonies and the rise of British newspapers coincided during the first half of the eighteenth century. Interest in the colonies was particularly stimulated by the American phases of the series of European wars.

Apart from war, however, America was always newsworthy, sometimes prominent, in the scores of journals in England, Scotland and Ireland, as is indicated by the prevalence of such headings as ‘America’ or ‘Plantation News’ and such by-lines as ‘Boston’ or ‘Philadelphia’.

Numerous letters from America and a few straight articles are also found. The space given to American news increased steadily as the century progressed.

As with all newspaper material of the time, the American pieces reveal widespread use of scissors and paste; but some papers had their own correspondents in the colonies while others had special arrangements with sea-captains.

By the standards of the day, America was well covered by the press. This does not mean that the news was always balanced or accurate, any more than it is today. The single topic that received by far the most space was the Indian.

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