Ballads and the development of the English newsbook

Authored by: Marcus Nevitt

The Routledge Companion to British Media History

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415537186
eBook ISBN: 9781315756202
Adobe ISBN: 9781317629474


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When the most brilliant journalist of seventeenth-century England launched the slickest, most informative newsbook of the era, he did so with a clear sense of aesthetic and political purpose. Marchamont Nedham announced Mercurius Politicus’s arrival in June 1650 with the swagger of a writer whose copious talent was backed by government subsidy; he represented his new professional identity in the service of Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth government as a repudiation of both monarchical politics and contemporary journalistic fashions:

Why should not the Common-wealth have a Fool, as well as the King had? ‘Tis a point of State … But you’ll say, I am out of fashion, because I make neither Rimes nor Faces, for Fidlers pay, like the Royal Mercuries; Yet you shall know I have authority enough to create a fashion of my own, and make all the world to follow the humour.

(Mercurius Politicus, 1650: 1)

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