The Making of John Bull Magazine, 1906-1918

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During the course of the First World War John Bull magazine achieved the status of Britain’s largest selling weekly periodical outside of the leading Sunday newspapers. By 1918, the sales of the magazine had achieved an unprecedented level of two million per issue. This project seeks to explore the reasons for the success of John Bull between 1914 and 1918 by examining in detail the early history of the magazine using the archive collections of the British and Bodleian Libraries.

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John Bull had been set up in 1906 by the newly elected Independent Liberal MP Horatio Bottomley. After a faltering start, Bottomley had been able to persuade the manager of Odhams Press, Julius Elias, to take on the role of printing the magazine. This link with the firm of Odhams was critical in providing Bottomley with a reliable, high quality printing operation to support his publishing enterprise. With this solid foundation, Bottomley was able to develop John Bull into a popular, campaigning magazine which provided remarkable value for the one penny outlay required for its purchase.

The project is an extension of the research undertaken as part of a history of the UK magazine industry entitled Revolutions from Grub Street which was published in 2014 by Oxford University Press. This book represents the first comprehensive business history of Britain’s leading magazine publishing houses from the 18th to the 21st century, perhaps most notably the huge IPC media conglomerate which claimed to be the world’s largest publishing organisation at the time of its formation in 1961.

Members involved in this research

Professor Howard Cox

Dr Simon Mowatt