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Title: The political life of the 'Porcupine' : provincial power and the satirical press, 1860-1880
Author: Kilfoyle, L. S.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7970 3840
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2018
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Newspapers and periodicals produced in Victorian London have been researched extensively but journalism history scholars readily admit that knowledge and understanding of the wider, provincial press, as it evolved during the nineteenth century, remains patchy. This project helps remedy this historiographical gap by means of an extended investigative case study into an obscure and hitherto largely untapped primary source. The 'Porcupine', a weekly satirical journal launched in Liverpool in 1860, was a Private Eye for the "top hat and crinoline" generation. Independent and provocative, this self-styled public watchdog set out to hold truth unto power and to stir up local political debate. Aimed at the burgeoning bourgeoisie, the journal was liberal, Liberal and liberated. Its creators championed and practised the principles of scrutiny, transparency and accountability. They were "doing" investigative and campaigning journalism way ahead of the town's more orthodox newspaper pack. Countless comic periodicals emerged and rapidly folded during this hyper- entrepreneurial period. The Porcupine, however, lasted a remarkable fifty-five years, remaining commercially viable in a highly competitive environment. This suggests that it must have been en pointe, meeting a contemporary public demand. The question is: how, why and to what effect? What, if anything, does the existence and apparent popularity of the publication reveal about the socio-political function of the home-grown regional press and about the nature of public discourse - of freedom of thought and expression at their most arch - at the local level? The aim of this study is, in part, to resurrect the journal both as an historical source and as a subject of academic interest in its own right. It demonstrates that provincial satirical journals like the Porcupine represent intriguing counter evidence which challenges conventional mentalité views of Victorian values and power dynamics. The primary objective is to use the publication as an analytical prism and ontological testbed for the examination of the three conceptual features which defined the provincial serio-comic periodical: political philanthropy, "townology" and satire as freedom of thought and expression. Focusing upon the journal's heyday in the 1860s and 1870s, the research uncovers stimulating new insights into the practice of political satire during the period and proposes new interpretations of the Porcupine and its world. Ranging over interconnected aspects of print, urban, business and municipal culture, it makes the case for the importance of the provincial satirical periodical as a politically-motivated discursive practice. In the process, it argues for a reassessment of satire's place in the grander narrative of democratic deliberation and dissent in the nineteenth century.
Supervisor: Milne, Graeme ; Chalus, Elaine Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral