Described by the New Yorker as “the newspaper that rules Britain”, the Daily Mail has been at the heart of British journalism since 1896. Nowhere is this more obvious than during the First World War. Before the start of the war the editor, Lord Northcliffe campaigned for German power to be curtailed and predicted war. His influence on public opinion was so strong that it was believed that a German war ship was sent to shell his country home in Kent in an attempt to assassinate him – shells did fall near his house.
Once the First World War had commenced, Northcliffe wrote an article criticising the national hero Lord Kitchener for ordering the wrong sort of shells for trench warfare. Northcliffe’s wartime criticism would see copies of the Daily Mail burnt on the floor of the London Stock exchange. In time though his criticism proved correct and pressure from the revelations would see the resignation of the then Prime Minister H. H. Asquith (The actress Helena Bonham Carter’s Great-Grandfather) and the appointment of a new PM, David Lloyd George. The Germans acknowledged Northcliffe’s part in their downfall by striking a bronze ‘hate medal’ of him.
You can read the thoughts, motivations and feelings of all those involved in this heartbreaking time period using The Daily Mail Historical Archive 1896-2004. All you need is your library card number and password/PIN
This may be one of our lesser known eResources, but for an understanding on the build-up and reaction to the First World War at ground level, then it remains a gem.