From rebellion to reform: representations of regional and civic improvement in the Aberdeen Journal, 1747-85

Benchimol, A. (2021) From rebellion to reform: representations of regional and civic improvement in the Aberdeen Journal, 1747-85. Northern Scotland, (In Press)

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Abstract

The ideologically consequential role of the Aberdeen Journal in facilitating the commercial modernization of Aberdeen and the northeast of Scotland in the four decades after the Battle of Culloden is an understudied aspect of the city’s and region’s social, economic and cultural history. This article examines the way improvement initiatives from key regional and civic stakeholders like the Board of Trustees for Fisheries, Manufactures and Improvements in Scotland, the Aberdeenshire Society for the Encouragement of Agriculture and Manufactures, the Commissioners of Supply, Aberdeen Town Council, and Marischal College were represented in the newspaper, often as an implicit critique of the traditional landholding structures in the region. In particular it highlights how James Chalmers II and James Chalmers III—the Aberdeen Journal’s proprietors during its first forty years—developed Scotland’s first newspaper north of Edinburgh as an informational hub to integrate the city and region into key currents of Scottish and British capitalist modernization in the second half of the eighteenth century, from linen manufacturing and processing, to land reform and agricultural improvement. The article argues that this process was far from an ideologically neutral process, and highlights how discourses of improvement in the Whig newspaper were deployed to empower new stakeholders—like those from the region’s linen industry—in part by portraying traditional landholding structures as barriers to the northeast’s material modernization. The social and economic transformation reflected in and facilitated by the newspaper led to demands for political reform by those new commercial stakeholders, like John Ewen and Patrick Barron, who had profited from this regional modernization. The article concludes with an examination of the Aberdeen burgh reform movement of the early 1780s—which utilized the Aberdeen Journal as a principal periodical platform—as an essential ideological consequence of this trajectory of material regional and civic improvement, and a key test for translating regional commercial progress into an expansion of political rights by the region’s new stakeholders.

Item Type:Articles
Status:In Press
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Benchimol, Dr Alex
Authors: Benchimol, A.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor
H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and Communications
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
J Political Science > JN Political institutions (Europe)
J Political Science > JS Local government Municipal government
N Fine Arts > NE Print media
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Journal Name:Northern Scotland
Publisher:Edinburgh University Press
ISSN:0306-5278
ISSN (Online):2042-2717

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