- Settlers, War, and Empire in the Press: Unsettling News in Australia and Britain, 1863–1902 by Sam Hutchinson, and: Special Correspondence and the Newspaper Press in Victorian Print Culture, 1850–1886 by Catherine Waters
In this review of Settlers, War, and Empire in the Press: Unsettling News in Australia and Britain, 1863–1902, by Sam Hutchinson, and Special Correspondence and the Newspaper Press in [End Page 697] Victorian Print Culture, 1850–1886, by Catherine Waters, it is salutary to recall the academic neglect of Victorian journalism four decades ago. Many historical accounts traced the role of particular editors and journals, and broader studies addressed the history of the newspaper press, yet journalism typically was considered in focused archival study, often biographical, institutional, or narrowly political. In his detailed volumes on the political press in Britain, the arch “archive-cruncher” Stephen Koss manifests the culmination of a party-political approach (Neal Ascherson, “Newspapers of the Consensus” [London Review of Books, vol. 7, no. 3, 1985] par. 1). By the early 1980s there was already broader investigation, not least in the class-conscious work of A. J. Lee and Patricia Hollis, but there was little that accorded with urgent late-nineteenth-century iterations of journalism’s far-reaching importance. Recently, however, awareness of Victorian newspapers’ cultural centrality has grown in light of further understanding of the news, media technologies, identity, gender formation, ethnicity, and imperialism. The books reviewed here demonstrate the continuing vitality of the linguistic and cultural turns that such studies manifest: each book attends to language with close reading, and each pivots on the effects of journalism on readers, though from quite different angles.
Questions of national identity, postcolonialism, and media studies have been prominent in Australian scholarship. Hutchinson’s book is a theoretically informed, intricate study of the relationship between Imperial and settler discourses concerning three nineteenth-century conflicts that involved British and Australian troops. His analysis turns on the role of the press and wartime in identity formation: he examines how journalism in Britain, as well as within and across colonies, crystallized Australian settler-identity at the time of the Waikato War in New Zealand (1863–64), the Sudan Crisis (1885), and the South African War (1899–1902). In the 1860s, as Australian settlers were enlisted in fighting for British settlers’ authority and territory over that of Maoris in New Zealand, a certain rawness regarding the validity of the whole settler project appears in the rationales that were produced. Not only did reasoning coalesce at such junctures, but so did affective investments, and this study rightly urges attention to overblown, emotive prose in general. Discourse analysis is later thus brought to bear on passages like the Morning Post editorial on “‘the great Queen-Mother … [who] in her long and glorious reign has been slowly and surely building up the great fabric of a united British Empire’” (187). In fact, settler identity appears far from a tightly knit fabric, although it is shown to have become much less adversarial toward Britain over the forty years this study covers. Through tracing the terms and tenor of affiliation and abuse, with reference to long-standing debates, Hutchinson argues that the 1860s saw a generally confident British Imperialism prove uneasy with the expenditure and moral legitimacy of the Antipodean settler undertakings. In light of geopolitical shifts, higher regard for the Australian colonies followed: representations, sometimes tetchy, to the effect of “embarrassing and expensive colonial children” yielded to those of “maturing sons and daughters,” ripe for cooperation with that “great Queen-Mother” (33). Australians largely concurred in this sunny turn-of-the-century picture that eclipsed Imperial anxieties and their own earlier doubts and dissatisfaction.
The demonstrably multifaceted, dialectical construction of identities and discourses all the while testifies to journalism’s importance. Hutchinson’s combination of poststructuralist complexity...