Intro by Justin Furlong, NLI Newspaper Librarian
This is the fourth in a series of blogs connected to a joint project (Newspaper Descriptors Project) by the National Library of Ireland and the Newspaper & Periodical History Forum of Ireland (NPHFI). The project aims to provide short descriptors or pen notes for the newspaper titles listed in our Newspaper Database here at the National Library. The descriptors include such information as publication dates, proprietors and funding, editors and significant journalists, circulation figures (if known), comment on the newspaper’s political affiliation, and mention any histories written on the various titles.
We’re delighted to share this short piece on Labour World written by Carla King, DCU historian and NLI reader…
The Labour World enjoyed a short but influential career as a penny weekly. It first appeared on 21 September 1890 and its last edition was published on 24 May 1891. It was owned and edited by Michael Davitt and published in London, its readership in Britain and Ireland. The newspaper was registered on 17 July 1890, with an office at No. 263, the Strand, London. The initial shareholders were: Davitt, D’Arcy Reeve, William Saunderson (proprietor and editor of The Democrat, which went out of publication when the Labour World appeared), and Rev Mr Seymour. Others joined as shareholders shortly after, namely Mr Sherlock, the journalist Bennett Burleigh, Richard McGhee and James Rourke. The initial capital was £5,000 but in September it was raised to £10,000, at which time Davitt increased his shares to 600.
The paper initially appeared successful, with 60,000 of the second edition ordered. However, its support declined in the bitter atmosphere of the Parnell Split. Davitt initially ran the paper himself, seeking contributions from friends and associates, but when he became involved in the Parnell Split and his health broke down the paper was managed by Charles Diamond. Eventually Davitt handed over editorship of the paper to Henry Massingham on 2 May 1891 but the paper only survived for three further issues.
The Labour World was aimed at working men and women and covered a wide range of subject matter, including labour issues, news, sporting items, a women’s column, drama criticism, book reviews and serialised fiction. It was not affiliated to any political party but favoured the radical wing of the Liberal Party and Home Rule, and it also publicised Davitt’s Irish Democratic Trade and Labour Federation, founded in January 1890. It also became a mouthpiece for Davitt’s criticisms of Parnell.
Publications about the newspaper are:
- Laurence Marley, Michael Davitt: Freelance Radical and Frondeur (Four Courts Press, 2007), ch. 3 ‘Crusading journalism and the Labour World’
- Carla King, ‘Always with a pen in his hand...’ in Ciara Breathnach and Catherine Lawless (eds), Visual, Material and Print Culture in Nineteenth-Century Ireland (Four Courts Press, 2010), pp 186-97.
St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra