Seminar: Letters to the Editor, 1 May 2019

Please join us for our fourth seminar of the semester, featuring two twenty-minute presentations and discussion. All welcome!

Letters to the Editor
Wednesday 1st May 2019, 3-4.30pm
Room A112, Samuel Alexander Building, Oxford Road Campus, University of Manchester

Weizmann before Israel: Letters between Chaim and Charles Prestwich (Scott)

Dr Stefania Silvestri (Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Manchester)

This paper explores the correspondence between the editor of the Guardian, CP Scott, and Chaim Weizmann. The correspondence, part of the Guardian Archive at the John Rylands Library, starts in 1914 and continues until the death of the editor in 1932. These very personal letters provide an invaluable insight into the transformation of Weizmann from researcher at the University of Manchester into leader of the Zionist Movement. Examining the words of the two remarkable and well-known figures, I will analyse the importance of their friendship and the leverage of their relationship in making Weizmann a leading figure of national and international politics. My paper will discuss, on the one hand, the role of Weizmann in influencing the British view of the Zionist agenda, and on the other, the self-moulding of Weizmann into the future first President of the State of Israel.


Empowered Readers and Public Discussion: Letters to the Editor of the Manchester Guardian during the Irish War for Independence (1919-1921)

Kathy Davies (History, Sheffield Hallam University)

This paper focuses on letters sent to the editor of the Manchester Guardian during the Irish War for Independence regarding the conflict. First, it will provide insight in to the issues that compelled readers to write to the editor of the newspaper by highlighting the key themes concerning Ireland that emerged in its correspondence pages. Secondly, this paper will analyse threads of published correspondence in order to evaluate the Guardian’s commitment to a culture of public discussion. Both contemporaries and historians have previously maintained that upholding a culture of public discussion was central to the Guardian’s ethos as a ‘quality’ liberal press. This paper will argue that letters to the editor demonstrate that the newspaper was committed to enabling public political debate, and that through the publication of these letters, the Guardian empowered its readers by providing them with a platform to project their political voice. However, the paper will then address the question of these letter-writers actually were. By addressing the question of who, this paper will argue that those who wrote letters to the editor of the Guardian were already writing from positions of power, and thus this culture of public discussion had its limits. The Guardian’s commitment to public discussion has been explored previously by Mark Hampton, but his 2007 article focuses on editorials published during the Boer War. Existing literature on the Irish War for Independence engages with press sources, but letters to the editor have been neglected. Scholarship on the Manchester Guardian specifically gives some insight in to the editorial line on Ireland, but again, letters to the editor have been overlooked. This paper seeks to give letters to the editor appropriate attention, where histories of Anglo-Irish politics and of the press have previously fallen short.


For more information, please contact Dr Alice Marples at alice.marples[at]

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