||The Daily Courant
By Gareth Messenger
The first daily newspaper published in the United Kingdom
was the Daily Courant in 1702, however in this piece I will endeavour
to look at the Courants, their origin and their influence on modern day
The Courants originated from Protestant Holland, and they included war
propaganda against cavaliers and various stories of torture to fighters.
Although these were undoubtedly unreliable due to the ‘one-way’ approach
to thinking and beliefs, the Protestant reformation had a huge impact
on Holland’s history, most significantly in the north and the west.
It occurred in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, and the Reformation
came in three stages. Stage one did not actually occur in the Netherlands,
but was initiated by Martin Luther.
Stage two of the Reformation was
Anabaptism, which, in the Dutch counties of Holland and Friesland became
extremely popular. To explain, Anabaptists were considered to be extreme
and radical because of their beliefs that the apocalypse was near. Stage
three was Calvinism, and it became present in the Netherlands in 1560.
It was a way of introducing the theory of Christian life to the people,
and this stage was to convert both elite and common population into this
way of life. (1)
It was the early 1600s when newspapers first started as a large-format
broadsheet. The first newspaper to be unveiled in the English language
was in 1620, after many publications of newspapers had previously been
released in places such as the Netherlands, Germany and Italy.
Even though during the seventeenth century books became cheaper and started
to replace some forms of popular print, its traditional types continued
to the nineteenth century, and were a form of ‘wider print culture’.
Newspapers were also highly frequent during the times of the English
Civil War. This was when the press was being used for the first time
in England in order to print propaganda for the royalist and parliamentary
sides. At the same time as the war in England, the Courants were also
printing ‘horror stories’ about the violence in the Dutch
war between the Protestants and the Catholics. The reason for these stories
to be printed in England was to frighten people against the theories
of the King at the time, who was believed to be a Catholic, from doing
the same in England.
After the Restoration, coffee houses became the central function for
the exchange of news and information. They were places of sociability
which after the civil war created the sense that news was more fun and
fashion, yet often accommodated only certain professions. However in
Will’s Coffee House, named after Will Unwin, job status was not
a factor and provided the general public as a whole to express their
opinions on certain events of the time.
The Civil War led to an increase in the amount of news documents being
published. When a Licensing Act expired in 1682 on checked partisan papers,
there was uproar regarding publishing. This led to the introduction of
the Daily Courant. Making papers popular became a discovery theme amongst
various editors, so advertisements started to feature immediately.
The Daily Courant was the first ever successful daily newspaper, and
its editor claimed that he would not comment on the news “supposing
other people had sense enough to make reflections for themselves”.
(3) Yet, other editors were to disagree and sided with the idea of periodical
press becoming an influence on the public’s opinion, more than
an announcer of news.