10% to 12% of Sciences Po students choose to become journalists. Journalism occupies a predominant place in contemporary societies, a “fourth power”. Alexis de Tocqueville in 1833 already identified it as a source of power in On Democracy in America: central, executive, local, associative powers, the written press.
I. The ancestor of the newspaper: the gazette
Periodical: it is generally a weekly and not a daily newspaper because a newspaper takes time to reach the different provinces.
The gazettes are made up of dry and repetitive texts whose account is cluttered with many details.
There are either handwritten or printed sheets.
News that one makes circulate in the whole European space.
The gazette is inseparable from the information. The information develops at the same time as the populations open towards outside. The trade develops, therefore the information spreads. According to Chaunu, it is “the planetary disenclavement”.
II. Birth of the gazette
The gazette was born in Italy during the Renaissance. Italy is the place where this cultural, artistic movement starts. The gazette was born in the second half of the 16th century.
In Italy: one has cities which have a dominating role in the world of the trade, which allows a development of the information, like Venice, Florence, Genoa.
It was born within the papal court, because Rome was the seat of the papacy (the center of everything with the pope). The Papacy created the first great diplomatic network in Europe, and under this impulse information was to develop.
Gazette edition of Reims
Another impulse: birth of the printing press (allows the diffusion of a greater quantity of gazettes). The more one advances in the Modern Time, the more the gazettes go out in printed form.
The news by hand: often pamphlets (or libels), in handwritten form, which remain very present in the XVIIIth century. It is easier to diffuse things by hand: it allows to avoid censorship. It is easier to move, to play the clandestine, to diffuse its news rather than to go from places to places with the printing machine. In France, we have a lot of that.
Appearance of printing: Cologne in 1464, Rome in 1467, Lyon in 1473, Bruges in 1474.
200 printing workshops in Germany.
III. The Gazette of France of Renaudot
Date of creation: 1631, in full Thirty Years War, France decided to finance Sweden. The royal absolutism is set up in France at this time. Richelieu reinforces the authority of the king in France: it is finished of the counter-power. The Gazette de France is an inseparable element of the installation of the absolutism in France.
Creator: Theophraste Renaudot, adviser and doctor of the majesty, master and general steward of the offices of address of France.
Form of writing: printed, therefore wide diffusion.
Relation with the power: the royal power is close with Renaudot because it is the doctor of the king (he can kill or save the king besides). He also assumes other functions within the royal power and some ministers write in his newspaper. Louis XIII sometimes participated in articles in the Gazette: the relationship is extremely strong, during the Ancien Régime, it is the king alone who holds the truth. It is an official organ of information.
Type of information: wars (peace, treaties, battles), royal policy, foreign policy, important events. On July 14, 1789, the capture of the Bastille is not mentioned in the Gazette de France not to show that the royal power is shaken (as Renaudot is close to the king), the revolt of the Camisards in the Cevennes between 1703 and 1705 also (the Protestants put at evil the royal troops and the royal power). This, because one does not want to show that it is still possible to fight for religion as in the sixteenth century, to shake the king. It is moreover the only authorized gazette of the kingdom: if one creates another one, one is in the clandestinity, one is out of the law.
IV. Success and development of the gazette in France
In August 1762, we have the subtitle “organ of the royal power” on the Gazette de France.
The Gazette de France: 8 000 copies in the XVIIth century in Paris and in provinces. The gazette will become a monopoly of the State: the only one in the kingdom. Royal decision of 1635 where the State grants him the monopoly but also the heredity of the direction for him and his successors. Finally, it becomes a charge/office which is transmitted from father to son. 1631, date of its creation, is the year when France enters the Thirty Years War after a Swedish defeat: if ever the king must die, it is necessary that the gazette does not become a propaganda against the royal power (that it falls in other hands not close to the royal power which could criticize the king and the royal power by means of the gazette). When Richelieu and Louis XIII die, Renaudot loses his protectors and thus has no more protection. It is thus necessary to start again all, to put itself in the small papers of the king, etc.
During the Fronde, several newspapers are drawn in Paris but also in the provinces. People thought that the king should not govern everything, they wanted a little freedom. After the Fronde, the exceptions disappear. Renaudot’s Gazette became a monopoly again.
News arrives clandestinely from abroad, notably from Holland, and brings a new vision of information. But the information is also made by the oral one, in particular with the circulation of the people (one brews world, one tells the news to all those which one crosses).
One thought on “Birth and history of the newspaper”
@Julian: Yes of course, thank you!
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