Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe

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Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe

Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe (born July 15, 1865 in Dublin , † August 14, 1922 in London ) was a British journalist and publisher .

Newspaper magnate

Harmsworth was the oldest child of a lawyer and grew up in London. He attended Stamford School in Lincolnshire . He founded a school newspaper as early as 1878 and began working as a freelance journalist in 1880. In 1888 he founded his first newspaper, "Answers", in which his brother Harold took over the business administration.

Harmsworth was the first publisher to bring out large-scale tabloids in the United Kingdom. He took over the "Evening News" in 1894, founded the Daily Mail in 1896 and brought out the Daily Mirror in 1903 . New were the big headline on the first page, the big sports section, a section with “women-specific” topics (fashion and cooking), the frequent use of photos, especially of the British royal family and the low retail price. For the first time, special sporting events were sponsored . Also serials were a new element. Both newspapers thus became the most widely read daily newspapers in the United Kingdom, with a circulation of millions. In terms of content, Harmsworth set itself apart from the strictly neutral and deliberate “old” newspapers with a tabloid and nationalistic orientation.

He then financially redeveloped the Observer from 1905 before buying the Times , the Daily Express , the Sunday Times and the Evening News in 1908 . With this, Harmsworth ruled the largest press group in the United Kingdom at the beginning of the First World War . The imperial and anti-German orientation of its papers contributed to the enthusiasm for war in Great Britain.

During the war, his newspapers repeatedly criticized the British government, for example in the ammunition crisis of 1915 , which led to the formation of the all-party government under Herbert Henry Asquith , and after the lost Battle of Gallipoli , as a result of which Asquith had to resign.

After the war he mobilized a campaign in parliament and in public that prevented the government from reducing the reparation demands on the German Reich.


Harmsworth turned down an offer from the new Prime Minister Lloyd George to join the government because he would then no longer have been able to criticize the government. However, he became a member of a commission that should coordinate the joint war efforts of the United States and Great Britain from June to November 1917. In March 1918 Harmsworth took over at the request of Max Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook , the office of the coordinator of British propaganda in enemy countries ("Director of propaganda in enemy countries") in Crewe House , a department of the Ministry of Information . The importance of Northcliffe's propaganda activity was rather limited. His influence on concrete political decisions was just as small. The view, especially expressed after the war, that the war propaganda carried out by Northcliffe had played a decisive role in the victory over Germany, was by no means true.

On November 11, 1918, the day the armistice with the German Reich came into effect, Harmsworth resigned from this office. After Lloyd George had refused to form his future government on the proposals of Harmsworth, this withdrew his support.

Nobility titles and personal life

Harmsworth married Mary Elizabeth Milner († 1963, since 1905 Baroness Northcliffe) in 1888 and had a daughter with her. 1904 Harmsworth was first offered the dignity of a Knight Bachelor , which he refused. Thereupon he became hereditary baronet , of Elmwood, in the Parish of St. Peter's, Thanet , in the County of Kent , and of Sutton Place, in the Parish of Guildford , in the County of that same year on August 23, 1904 Surrey , raised. The following year, on December 27, 1905, he was raised to Baron Northcliffe , of the Isle of Thanet in the County of Kent. He was the youngest person to have ever been raised to a baron . The baron title was also associated with a seat in the House of Lords . Finally, on January 14, 1918, the elevation to the Viscount Northcliffe , of St. Peter in the County of Kent.

His brother Harold and three other brothers were raised to the lower or high nobility .

In 1921 Harmsworth's health deteriorated rapidly. He suffered from blood poisoning , which resulted in damage to the heart valves and eventually kidney failure . Harmsworth died in August 1922. Since he had no sons, his titles of nobility expired on his death.

The Northcliffe Glacier , Northcliffe Peak and Mount Harmsworth are named in his honor in Antarctica .

Sports sponsorship

In 1903, Alfred Harmsworth donated the Daily Mail British International Harmsworth Trophy to promote the development of faster motor boats. It was held in motorboat races for over 100 years, most recently in 2004, and is comparable to the “America's Cup” for sailboats. To the chagrin of the British, the Harmsworth Trophy was mostly won by Americans, including eight times by Gar Wood in the 20s and 30s alone . The most prominent winner is Stefano Casiraghi , the husband of Caroline von Monaco, who won the Harmsworth Trophy in 1989.

The Jackson-Harmsworth Expedition

Harmsworth funded an Arctic expedition conducted from 1894 to 1897 under the command of Frederick George Jackson , known as the Jackson Harmsworth Expedition. The aim of this venture was the exploration of Franz-Josef-Land , whereby the question should be clarified whether it is an archipelago or part of an arctic continent. For three years Jackson occupied himself with the mapping and surveying of Franz Josef Land. He proved that Franz-Josef-Land is an archipelago.


  • Sil-Vara : English statesmen . Ullstein, Berlin 1916, pp. 231-242.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Jörn Leonhard: The Pandora's Box History of the First World War. CH Beck, Munich 2014, ISBN 3-406-66191-2 , pp. 585-586.
  2. ^ The London Gazette : 27696, 4556 , July 15, 1904.
  3. ^ The London Gazette: 27871, 107 , January 5, 1906.
  4. The London Gazette: No. 30533, p. 2212 , February 19, 1918.
  5. ^ Ronald Savitt, Cornelia Lüdecke: Legacies of the Jackson-Harmsworth expedition, 1894-1897 . In: Polar Record . 43, No. 224, 2007, pp. 55-66. doi : 10.1017 / S0032247406005791 .