Founded in 1896 by the Harmsworth brothers, Alfred (later Lord Rothermere) and Harold (later Lord Northcliffe), it was aimed at a more populist readership than the established dailies (with a purchase price of ½d rather than the 1d charged by the rest of the London dailies).
From the outset it was rabidly conservative, attracting some criticism for its pro-Empire stance and lack of objectivity during the 1899-1902 South African War (the “Boer War”). In 1934 Lord Rothermere wrote an infamous op-ed, “Hurrah for the Blackshirts”, in praise of Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists. Even after the Mail dropped its support for the BUF after violence at a 1934 meeting at Kensington Olympia, it nevertheless maintained a sympathetic stance towards Hitler right up until 1939.
It maintains this right-wing conservative (with a “c” as well as with a “C”) to the present day, being anti-Europe, anti-immigration, anti-taxation, anti-abortion, anti-permissive, anti-(the list goes on and on…). Articles tend to be written in one of two tones – either sycophantic praise of the lifestyles of middle-class role models and their trappings, or (more usually) moral outrage at the ever-increasing wickedness and instability of the modern world. It’s frequently lampooned by Private Eye for this, especially over house prices – rises, falls and stagnation are all given mock headlines describing them in fearful and pessimistic terms – and has acquired the nickname the Daily Heil in some quarters. It came under fire from disabled people in April 2011 for what they regarded as its “defamatory” and “disablist” coverage of disability benefit claimants.
It made a great show in January 2012 of having supplanted the New York Times as the world’s most popular newspaper website. What its screenshots trumpeting the news failed to show was the great long string of teasers from its lightweight FeMail gossip section (over 50 of them!) in the third column of the site.
It held the first “Ideal Home Exhibition” in 1908, and has continued to hold them very successfully ever since.
Besides the main edition, there’s also an Irish Daily Mail and a “foreign” edition.
It’s also available as an iPhone app.
*Truth is stranger than fiction sometimes. We’ve carried that description of the Daily Mail ever since this site first appeared on the Web in 2002. On 4 May 2007 the Mail‘s “Femail” section for women carried an article under this headline: “I became a Stepford wife and saved my marriage”. As its own columnist Richard Littlejohn so often says, you couldn’t make it up. Why bother, when you’ve got the Mail?
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