Newspaper Debates in Late Eighteenth-Century England: ‘Letters to the Editor’ versus the Political Pamphlet

  • Johanne Slettvoll Kristiansen Norwegian University of Science and Technology


When exploring contributions to political debates in late eighteenth-century England, scholars have typically favoured non-serialized publications, most commonly the pamphlet, thus neglecting the many contributions appearing in the periodical press. This article redresses this oversight by exploring both the shortcomings and the advantages of the newspaper as a medium for political debate in this period. Based on a close reading of leading London newspapers from the politically turbulent years of 1791–95, this article explores the following questions: What advantages did the newspaper have over stand-alone publications such as the political pamphlet? What type of audience were writers of political newspaper commentary trying to reach, and what barriers did they encounter when attempting to do so? Why did the newspaper supplant the non-serialized pamphlet as the leading medium for political debate towards the end of the eighteenth century?