Hannah Barker and Simon Burrows
As a vital component of print culture, newspapers feature prominently in most recent accounts of social and political change in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This is as true for historians exploring the new 'cultural interpretation' of the French Revolution as it is for those studying Europe's emergent middle classes or the commercialisation of Western culture. Yet despite the priority both historians and contemporaries have attributed to the influence of the newspaper press, its role is poorly integrated into most narrative accounts, and not enough is known about the press itself, especially in terms of national comparison. 1 This is particularly problematic given the central role that many historians attribute to newspapers in the formation of 'public opinion' and a panEuropean 'public sphere' independent of government but critical of the actions of authority. 2
This bookseeks to address this need by offering a number of nationally based case studies, assessing their common features and divergences and exploring the role of the newspaper in political and social change. The choice of 'national boundaries' as organising categories serves an essential purpose here, because the political and legal frameworks which defined the parameters and possibilities of the press, as well as the broad contours of societies and economies, were to a high degree co-extensive with national borders, even in ancien regime Europe. Furthermore, the extent and processes by which nationhood was defined from the 1760s to the 1820s rankamong the most problematic and pressing issues confronting historians of the period, and accounts of the processes of nation-building and defining national identity often privilege the press. 3 Within our predominantly 'national' framework, chapters covering communities lacking statehood (Ireland and pre-revolutionary America), geographic units incorporating many states (Germany and Italy) and a chapter on the cosmopolitan press offer varied perspectives on links between the press and shifting senses of community and national identity.
Many recent press studies have stressed the extent to which newspapers and the political and print cultures in which they arise help to