The German newspaper in its first years of existence

  • Jan Hillgaertner

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


This thesis traces the birth and spread of the newspaper in the Holy Roman Empire in the first half of the seventeenth century. It examines the emergence of the new form of communication between 1605, the year that Johann Carolus of Strasbourg published the first newspapers and 1650, when publishing periodical news had become firmly embedded in the European information world. The eventual success of the newspaper as the foremost purveyor of news was not foreordained. The newspapers made their way in an established news market, and drew their coverage from many of the established European news hubs, Vienna, Cologne, Amsterdam, Paris, Venice and Rome. As with the invention of printing, the fundamental problems connected with the first age of newspaper publishing were essentially economic: start-up capital, distribution, collecting subscriptions. Periodicity also introduced special challenges not familiar in the wider book world, such as the need for a steady supply of news, and the ethics of reporting. Formulating a set of rules and ethics that could govern all forms of reporting proved to be problematic. Newspaper in Germany ostentatiously avoided the bias and propagandistic rhetoric of established forms of news distribution, such as broadsheets and pamphlets. But this in turn meant that the absence of context and background made the purely factual reports favoured by the newspaper difficult for relatively inexperienced readers to understand. In the first part of this dissertation, based on the inspection and analysis of some 8,000 surviving issues, two chapters explore the emerging world of German newspapers, the distribution of new titles and their longevity. The second chapter refines our picture of the German news world, based on a detailed analysis of the places from which news was received, the ‘places of correspondence’. Two further chapters contextualise this broader treatment through an examination of the news reporting of two major events: the death of the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus at the Battle of Lützen, and the execution of King Charles I of England in 1649. These case studies also provide the opportunity for a sustained comparison with the emerging newspaper markets of other parts of Europe, and with the provision of news through manuscript newsletters, still the gold standard for accuracy and reliability even in the age of printed news.
Date of Award25 Jun 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorAndrew Pettegree (Supervisor)


  • Newspaper
  • Journalism
  • Book history

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  • Full text embargoed until
  • 5th March 2025

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