Subjects covered in this multi-disciplinary archive

Click to read the following sections:

- The First World War

- Women and Gender Studies

- Family History

- “Popular” politics

- The reporting of Crime

- The study of advertising

The First World War

The Daily Mail played a pivotal role in the politics of the period, directly contributing to the change of British government in 1916. As a result, it is a valuable resource for the study of the war.

Soon after the outbreak of the First World War the editor of The Star newspaper claimed that: "Next to the Kaiser, Lord Northcliffe has done more than any living man to bring about the war." Northcliffe had long campaigned in the pages of the Daily Mail for German power to be curtailed, and predicted that a war was inevitable.

Lord Northcliffe reading a copy of the Daily Mail

On 21st May, 1915 Northcliffe wrote the article KITCHENER’S TRAGIC BLUNDER criticising Kitchener:

"Lord Kitchener has starved the army in France of high-explosive shells. The admitted fact is that Lord Kitchener ordered the wrong kind of shell - the same kind of shell which he used largely against the Boers in 1900. He persisted in sending shrapnel - a useless weapon in trench warfare. He was warned repeatedly that the kind of shell required was a violently explosive bomb which would dynamite its way through the German trenches and entanglements and enable our brave men to advance in safety. This kind of shell our poor soldiers have had has caused the death of thousands of them."

Lord Kitchener was a national hero and Northcliffe's attack on him upset a great number of readers. Overnight, the circulation of the Daily Mail dropped from 1,386,000 to 238,000. A placard was hung across the Daily Mail nameplate with the words "The Allies of the Huns". Over 1,500 members of the Stock Exchange had a meeting where they passed a motion against the "venomous attacks of the Harmsworth Press" and afterwards ceremoniously burnt copies of the offending newspaper.

Northcliffe replied, "The other newspapers are wrong and I am right.  And the day will come when you will all know I am right."

Circulation swiftly recovered as reports came back from the Front about the shortages, and the event has subsequently become known as the Shell Crisis. When Asquith resigned in December 1916 as a result of pressure brought about by the crisis, the new PM David Lloyd George offered Northcliffe a post in his cabinet. Northcliffe refused as he knew it would undermine his ability to criticise the government.

Such was Northcliffe's influence on anti-German propaganda during the First World War that it was believed that a German war ship was sent to shell his country home in Elmwood, Kent in an attempt to assassinate him – it is certainly true that shells fell near his house. The Germans acknowledged Northcliffe's part in their downfall by striking a bronze 'hate medal' of him.

First World War ‘Hate medal’ depicting Lord Northcliffe

Women and Gender Studies

Women have always formed a substantial percentage of the Daily Mail’s readership. The paper had a women’s column from its earliest issues and hired the world’s first female war correspondent to cover the Boer War. The Daily Mail also distinguished itself from other newspapers by introducing the first women’s magazine in a newspaper in 1968.

Family History

The Daily Mail Historical Archive is a hugely valuable resource for family history, with a great deal of content covering births, deaths and marriages. One of the key benefits is that the readership was very close to the broad mass of the British public. This is reflected in the adverts, the types of news stories, and the pieces the paper ran about ordinary people doing impressive things.


 “Popular” politics

Front page of the Daily Mail – July 24, 2004

The Daily Mail has typically attracted a conservative readership, providing insight into the political issues that preoccupy the grassroots of the Conservative Party in Britain, including immigration, health, and care for the elderly. Historically, the paper also illustrates how some parts of the British population were inclined towards fascism in the 1930s.


The reporting of Crime

Front page of the Daily Mail – February 14, 1997

Crime stories sell popular newspapers, and as such, the Daily Mail has a large number of sensational articles that would not have been reported in the broadsheets. It also has been involved in directing the reporting of higher-profile cases, such as the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1992, and the trials of his alleged killers.


The study of advertising

Personal ads from the Daily Mail – May 4, 1896

Advertising is a key way in which students can be introduced to the research value of newspaper archives. Analysing the advertising of a given period and showing its development across time can tell us much about contemporary society. As a popular newspaper, the Daily Mail has a different audience to broadsheets, such as The Times, and therefore opens up whole new avenues of study.

Images © Associated Newspapers Limited