Women, Press and Protest in British and French India, 1928-48.
Principal Investigator: Dr. Jane Chapman
Research Assistants (2): Dr. Sadie Clifford; French language researcher TBC
Administrative Assistant: Rebecca Inkley
Tamil translator: TBC
This project, running until 30 June 2011, studies the impact of women's economic and political protest on and through newspaper contributions, revealing two hidden aspects. First women's protest role in the forgotten French outpost of Pondicherry, the main centre of population amongst small scattered territories ruled by France from the 17th century to 1962. Second the case of the collapse of The Pioneer newspaper (famous for employing Kipling), when advertisers withdrew their support due to pro-nationalist coverage of female boycotts. There will be a touring exhibition of the project findings to all three countries, a website resource for schools and content from both research projects will appear in a series of articles and as part of a book entitled Gender, Citizenship and the Media (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), co-authored with Kate Lacey.
WHAT IS NEW ?
The subject :
Although a lot has been written about British rule in India- the 'jewel in the crown' of Empire- historians are just beginning to acknowledge the important role that women played in the nationalist cause, even though at the time Gandhi openly talked of the importance of female contributions. How those women, who led economic boycotts of British goods, used print communications, has never been specifically studied.
This project takes a particular period (1929-32) in Lucknow and the United Provinces region, when protests were led by women from the Nehru family, and attempts to quantify the impact on the leading English language newspaper in the area- The Pioneer. The project also rediscovers the forgotten and hidden history of Tamil speaking women in the French region of Pondicherry- a favourite tourist beauty spot today.
Awareness of French Indian territories :
France had colonial settlements in India right up to 1962. In the biggest city and area - Pondicherry - the nationalist movement was Tamil speaking and the area returned a communist deputy to the Paris Chamber of Deputies. According to his memoirs, indigenous women played an important part in the freedom movement. Political awareness of the need for colonial freedom first became a concrete phenomenon during three 2 year long textile strikes in French and European owned mills, and after the violent death of 12 pickets in 1936. Women picketed on a daily basis, and continued to be active in 1948 when government hired armed gangs of thugs roamed around villages, setting fire to houses in order to pressurise the local population not to support the nationalist cause. This project investigates ways that newspapers framed these issues and the way in which print communications were used by rebels.
Research methods :
The project uses economic history methodology to quantify the influence of female protesters. ForThe Pioneer newspaper, researchers are comparing the frequency and incidence of boycott editorial coverage with a decline in advertising revenue when advertisers withdrew their support following the conversion of the then British editor - F.W.Wilson - to the nationalist cause. Researchers are also looking for evidence of the influence of Nehru on Wilson's thinking, as the two men were close friends. Finally, the project is measuring the amount of attention given to female protest in other newspapers.
The findings of the project will be disseminated internationally during 2011 with a touring exhibition of female pioneers in the nationalist cause , displayed as blown up photos , pamphlets and newspaper articles. Exhibition venues will include the foyers of important libraries in India, Britain and France.
A website for schools
The project findings can be used for schools project work as part of the UK Empire curriculum. These, along with exhibition venues and dates (see above) will also be posted by Lincoln University in 2010 and 2011.
Reader in Journalism Studies,
PG Admissions Tutor,
Faculty of Media, Humanities & Technology, Lincoln University, Brayford Pool, Lincoln LN6 7TS, United Kingdom
Feminising Influences on Mass Circulation : a comparative study of Le Petit Journal and the Daily Mail.
Principal Investigator : Dr. Jane Chapman
Research Assistant : Kate Allison
British Academy funded research project:
The concerns of this project demonstrate the continuing dilemmas of how female identity is to be represented by the media and the repercussions for citizenship and the public sphere. This is the first time that female influence on the early mass circulation press has been quantified in detail, and also the first time that comparisons have been made on the theme between two countries. The research into Europe's first mass circulation daily and into Britain's first tabloid daily reveals that criticisms of 'tabloidisation' have a historical as well as a contemporary dimension. This dates back to the formative years of the tabloid; in other words, it is not a purely 20th century phenomenon. Press historians have assumed that the obvious widening of audience appeal in the mass circulation popular press, referred to as 'New Journalism' with its fresh emphasis on trivia, crime coverage and pulp serialised fiction, also implied a progressive view of women. Our findings prove otherwise, refuting the 'feminisation' argument. Decisions about what the female audience was interested in were made largely by men and defined fairly conservatively.
This study challenges the argument that the early mass circulation press increasingly catered for its female audience. Europe's first popular daily- the French Le Petit Journal - was studied during its launch year of 1863, then again comparatively with Britain's Daily Mail in 1896, the launch year of the latter. A shared emphasis on trivia, crime coverage and pulp serialised fiction demonstrates masculine perceptions of what female audiences wanted - doing no favours to the emergent suffragist movement. Commercial factors outweighed political ones. A 4 part categorization of the representation of women in articles as either 'vicious', 'virtuous', 'victorious' or 'victims' indicates these dailies defined female audience interest conservatively. The findings provide detailed comparison of cultural distinctions -French coverage tending towards the prurient and sensational, in contrast to the more positive British articles. Such insights contrast with existing more generalised discussion of the late19th century mass circulation press.
Of the two papers, Le Petit Journal led the way with its content 'tabloidisation', although The Daily Mail is usually given credit for this by UK historians. In fact, Northcliffe's diaries reveal that he visited the Paris H.Q of Le Petit Journal regularly for inspiration, studying operations carefully and befriending PJ director Marinoni prior to the Daily Mail launch in 1896. Project research also reveals the pioneering marketing foresight of PJ founder Millaud during the 1860s- a place in the history of the popular press previously attributed to Northcliffe at the turn of the century and beyond (largely due to claims by the latter in memoirs - that do not exist for Millaud).
The French press initiative in conservative feminisation has not previously been recognised by gender scholars either: they have tended to concentrate on the more positive side of emergent citizenship, exemplified by feminist pioneer role models. Thus the findings add a new contribution to discourses on French modernity and women's history in both countries. As such they supplement research on the varying representations of women that figured prominently as content in literature and art during the second half of the 19th century, and resonate with some of today's media stereotyping of women.
During data analysis of the newspapers the project researcher created three data sets: Petit Journal 1863, Petit Journal 1896 and Daily Mail 1896. These provide a percentage of female-related articles based on a 33 per cent sample and reveal a 5 per cent increase for The Daily Mail and 3.5 % for Le Petit Journal respectively. Quantitative content analysis in 5 descriptive representational categories - 'vicious', 'virtuous', 'victorious' or 'victims' , or n/a - tracked changes in editorial approach. Articles were also analysed separately for the percentage of consumer orientated as opposed to citizen-centred pieces. Whilst remaining socially conservative and trivial, The Daily Mail managed to increase its more positive, educative angle ('virtuous' and 'victorious'). Conversely, Le Petit Journal increased its emphasis on prurient and critical coverage of women ('vicious' and 'victims'). There is only one reference to a professional female journalist, 'Mamselle Chiffon' in PJ and 2 female journalists in The Daily Mail- 'Lady Charlotte' and 'Janet'. The analysis of female representation with the '4 V ' categorisation indicates that the papers appeared to do little to aid the position of women as citizens at a time when suffragette organization was in the ascendancy.
Gender, Citizenship, and the Media: Historical & Trans-national Perspectives by Jane Chapman and Kate Lacey (Palgrave-Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2012)
'Assessing the female influence in Europe's first mass circulation daily newspaper.' Modern & Contemporary France, Dec.2009, Jane Chapman
'Prurient and socially conservative- 19th century representation of women in Britain's Daily Mailand France's Le Petit Journal', Media History, date TBC
LINK TO PROJECT POWERPOINT:
Professor Chapman presenting a paper on research findings at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, this was a public conference on the history of tabloid newspapers.