Cover 9781849545853

Winner of the Paddy Power and Total Politics Political Book Awards’ Political Biography of the Year 2013

The era of sensational tabloid journalism began in Britain in the summer of 1885 when W. T. Stead, editor of the Pall Mall Gazette_, ran a newspaper campaign entitled ‘_The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon’. In a series of flesh-creeping articles, the editor revealed how he had ‘purchased’ a child of thirteen from her parents for sinister purposes darkly hinted at to the reader. The result was a two-week national panic, culminating in the raising of the age of consent from thirteen to sixteen – and the conviction of Stead for kidnapping the child unwittingly at the centre of his story. In this pioneering biography, author W. Sydney Robinson follows Stead from his modest beginnings as the son of a Nonconformist minister in Newcastle to his years of power as an influential London newspaper editor before later being dismissed as a madman for his obsession with the occult and (more unfairly) promoting world peace. He was last seen helping women and children into lifeboats as the Titanic went down. Always sure in the righteousness of his cause, and regarding no methods as too extreme for his ends, Stead remains, in the age of Leveson, both a model and a warning for investigative journalists worldwide.


Will Robinson presents new material about Stead’s life taken from his personal papers, previously suppressed by his wife, and gives us a rounded portrait of this father of journalistic campaigning. Even if you’re not interested in the rise of investigative reporting, this is a remarkable story and worth a read.

Your Family Tree

'Closely researched and briskly written, it does an excellent job of explaining one of the most extraordinary individuals in journalistic history

Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times

This compelling debut biography brings the seedy underbelly of Victorian journalism and its dodgiest practitioner brilliantly to life...

Sally Morris, Daily Mail

[a] timely, well-written biography of the brilliant, flawed Victorian journalist

Bel Mooney, Daily Mail

Every politician and journalist should slip a copy of this slim, brilliantly written volume by a new young author into their holiday luggage this summer.

Lord Lexden, The House Magazine

a timely study of Britain's first investigative journalist

Tobias Grey, The Wall Street Journal

[A] remarkably timely and entertaining biography...

The Times

A lively and laconic biography

John Pemble, London Review of Books

gives a singular editor his rightful place in the history of journalism

Western Mail

Closely researched and briskly written, Robinson's admirably thoughtful and economical biography it does an excellent job of explaining one of the most extraordinary individuals in journalistic history.

Sunday Times

A timely, well-written biography of the brilliant, flawed Victorian journalist.

Daily Mail

A lively and laconic biography.

London Review of Books
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  • eBook
  • ISBN: 9781849543880
  • 12 May 2012
  • £5.99

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