A definitive and compelling biography of Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe (1865-1922), the greatest press magnate in history, the genius who invented modern popular journalism, and against whom all the other great newspaper proprietors must be measured.
By the time of his tragically early death at 57 in August 1922, Northcliffe had founded the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror, and had also owned The Times and the Observer. At one point he owned two-thirds of all the titles on Fleet Street. He laid down the essential features of British popular journalism that we see now.
He was a tough and uncompromising businessman, but in The Chief Andrew Roberts puts his ruthlessness and wilfulness in the overall context of a life of visionary business skill, journalistic brilliance, distinguished wartime public service and heartfelt patriotism. From a modest background, growing up on the outskirts of Dublin, by 27 he presided over a magazine empire with the largest circulation in the world. He wanted his readers to know that he was on their side, which they instinctively did. He was proud of his populist approach, saw the importance of appealing to both sexes in his pages, and allowed his editors leeway so long as they understood and followed his vision. The formula he created for the Daily Mail is still world-beating to this day.
Based on exclusive access to the Harmsworth family archive, The Chief is a compelling and essential portrait of a man who changed the way we learn about the news, and whose influence still resonates today.
Professor Andrew Roberts, who was born in 1963, took a first class honours degree in Modern History at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, from where he is an honorary senior scholar and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). He is presently the Roger and Martha Mertz Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and a Visiting Professor at the War Studies Department at King’s College, London. He has written or edited 19 books, which have been translated into 23 languages, and appears regularly on radio and television around the world. He writes for the Sunday Telegraph and lives in London with his wife and two children.
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