The Times and the revolutionary crisis of 1848
The thesis seeks to examine how The Times functioned within mid-nineteenth-century British society and to suggest how the newspaper can be used to read the history of the period from the perspective of the dominant elements within it. It begins by analysing the uses made of the newspaper by historians and questions the assumptions which lie behind them. Chapters 2 and 3 assess the dominant role of The Times within the newspaper press and explore the relationship between the newspaper and its readers and their mutual perceptions. Chapter 4 analyses the structure of contemporary society and the common values which lay within, while the following chapter indicates the extent to which The Times in its treatment of the French revolution of 1848 constructed its version of reality within those values and thereby defined and defended them. Chapter 6 completes the location of the newspaper by considering the extent to which it was independent of Government, yet dependent on individual politicians. The locating of The Times within contemporary society enables its treatment of the crisis of 1848 to be critically examined in chapters 7 and 8. This reveals the extent to which events in London and Ireland were associated together and perceived as parts of a revolutionary movement which encapsulated the basic fears of the possessing classes and threatened their vital interests. In defending those interests The Times was at its most potent and 1848 demonstrated the ability of the paper to orchestrate and direct opinion on specific issues. The role of The Times and its importance are evaluated by means of the perceptions contemporaries had of events, the way they reacted to them, and the judgements subsequently made by historians. The thesis emphasizes the importance of The Times both as an agent within society and a source for the study of it.