Undercover Reporting in the Victorian Newspaper

  • Author / Creator
    Richardson, Jillian J
  • This dissertation studies the rise of undercover journalism in the Victorian period. Beginning in the 1860s, British journalists donned disguises to investigate the urban poor, and published their reports in a variety of newspapers. Scholars have traditionally studied incognito investigations by journalists within the context of sociological inquiries, carried out by Royal Commissioners, government inspectors, and ethnographers in the period. Yet, this dissertation examines undercover reports not as social documents, but rather, as part of an emerging textual genre, shaped by the shifting conventions of the Victorian newspaper. Drawing on the approaches of print- culture scholarship, each chapter investigates how undercover reports by James Greenwood, Thomas Carlisle, and Margaret Harkness were published and circulated in the period. Newspapers like the Pall Mall Gazette, the Globe and Traveller, and the British Weekly variously positioned these reports alongside the works of prominent reform institutions, including the Poor Law Board, the Charity Organization Society, and the Salvation Army. Yet, amid the rise of mass literacy and popular print culture, newspapers equally positioned undercover reports within the context of music-hall performance, New Journalism, yellow-back publishing, and serial fiction. These case studies thus work to illustrate how undercover reporting in the newspaper engaged not only with the study of the urban poor, but also with the shifting landscape of Victorian print and popular culture. While historians remain preoccupied with the dynamics between middle-class investigators and working-class subjects in undercover reports, this dissertation explores the variety of ways in which publication and circulation reconfigured class, cultural, gender, and discursive relations through print. This study’s attention to an under-examined genre of Victorian journalism contributes to the expanding field of print-culture scholarship, while also raising questions about how print genres give shape to the narratives of social history.

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  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
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    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.