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The London Times and the American Civil War.

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posted on 19.11.2015, 09:13 by Maxine T. Hamilton
The Times in the 1860's was the most powerful newspaper in Britain and the world. Through the labours of its exceptionally talented staff in London, the provinces, and abroad, it provided readers with vital information on major questions of the day, and instructed them on its editorial page as to the opinions they should hold. This thesis examines the record of The Times in covering and commenting on the American Civil War. When war threatened in America, Times editor John Delane quickly sent his experienced foreign correspondent, William Howard Russell, to supplement his regular correspondent in New York. Russell was in place to report the beginning of the war, the retreat from the first battle of Bull Run, and the Trent Crisis of November/December 1861. Refused permission in the spring of 1862 to accompany Northern armies on the first major campaign of the war, he angrily returned to England, In this period of just over a year. The Times moved from being the foreign newspaper most educated Americans wanted to read, to being the foreign newspaper most Americans vehemently disliked. Contemporary observers charged then and later that The Times's coverage of the war poisoned relations between Britain and the United States for a generation. This study analyzes this remarkable charge by exploring the private opinions of key players in the drama. The Times is unique among newspapers in possessing an unusually complete archive of letters written by its editors and correspondents. In addition to these letters and Russell's diaries, the papers of William Seward, American Secretary of State, and two of his diplomats, John Bigelow and Henry Sanford, the papers of Times correspondent Bancroft Davis and the diaries of American Minister Charles Francis Adams have been tapped to document American reactions to The Times. Lord Palmerston's papers have been consulted to determine the relationship between the policies advocated by The Times and those of Palmerston and his foreign secretary, Lord Russell. The major concentration of the study has been on the period just before the war up to the time of the Trent crisis, for it was then that The Times's policy was forged. While it has not been possible to examine every issue that was debated in The Times during this four year war, the study goes beyond Russell's tour to describe the reportage of the five other Times correspondents in America, and the part they played in ruining or rescuing The Times's reputation.


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Historical Studies

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University of Leicester

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