Max Aitken, born in Canada, moved to England after a successful stockbroking
career from which gave him ownership of a monopoly of cement factories.
Aitken sold his factories when he came to England and became a member
of the Conservative party, working closely with Andrew Bonar Law, the
Conservative Prime Minister at the time. Aitken began to build a London
During World War one Aitken went to the trenches and this prompted
him to write three books, Canada in Flanders 1916, Politicians and
the Press 1925 and Politicians and the War 1928. His love for journalism
became clear after his time in the trenches. He bought a majority
in the Daily Express in November 1916. Aitken added the London Evening
Standard to his newspaper empire by also buying the paper in 1916.
Aitken was granted a peerage in 1917 and named Lord Beaverbrook, after
a small town in Canada near his birthplace.
The post of First Minister
of Information in 1918 gave Aitken the responsibility of propaganda
in allied and neutral countries during this wartime period. Though
Beaverbrook was good at his job, he was accused by many members of
Parliament of being a “Press Baron”. As a result a lot
of state information was kept from him over fear of his newspapers
profiting from official matters. Beaverbrook later resigned from the
post over his ill health, but many believe this was an excuse for his
frustration with the job.
Beaverbrook concentrated his efforts on his daily newspaper. He turned
one of Britain’s mediocre papers into, what he said was “A
glittering journal, full of exciting new layouts.” The Express
soon turned into the most circulated newspaper in not only Britain, but
the world. He founded the Sunday Express in 1918 and this only added
to the paper’s now massive readership. The Express rose to a readership
of 1,708,000 in pre-war Britain. After World War Two the readership of
The Express had reached a peak of 3,706,000 readers a day.
was declared, “The first Baron of Fleet Street.” as his
papers could almost break any political or famous figure in the whole
Beaverbrook’s relationship with Churchill was one of trust in World
War Two and Beaverbrook was given the post of First Minister of Aircraft
Production, he was later promoted to Minister of Supply. After the war,
Beaverbrook fought to control the Labour party; his efforts were in vain,
as he had no real political following. As Beaverbrook said himself, he
was “A court favourite, who owed his position to Churchill’s
friendship.” Beaverbrook’s inability to take control of
the Labour party ultimately brought him down; he resigned from his
position due to his ill health.
Herbert Morris wrote in a biography, “Beaverbrook, a great individualist,
is to my mind something even of an Anarchist; but he is also a great
journalist. He makes newspapers of character - like them or not.” It
has become clear to me that Beaverbrook turned the daily newspaper
on its head in the early 20th Century and was hugely influential in
shaping the format of modern day newspapers.
Bibliography and Referencing.
A.J.P. Taylor- English History 1914-1945. Published 1965.
David Lowe – Autobiography. Published 1956.