Publication Date: 17/08/2023 ISBN: 9781398508712 Category:

The Chief

Andrew Roberts

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Publication Date: 17/08/2023 ISBN: 9781398508712 Category:
Paperback / Softback




‘Superb…his pages fizz with character and colour’ Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times
‘Scholarly and very readable’ Andrew Lycett, Spectator
‘Energetic and hugely entertaining’ A.N.Wilson, TLS

The definitive biography of Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe, the first and greatest press magnate in history and the genius who invented modern popular journalism.

The turn of the century was a period when the world was opening up in new and exciting ways – radio, telegrams, the advent of flight. With literacy and the right to vote extending across an ever-expanding populace, politics and journalism were embarking on a power struggle that continues unabated to this day. Lord Northcliffe rose to the challenges of this new world by employing cutting-edge technology, upending the outdated mores of traditional journalism and radically reshaping the very concept of ‘news’.

He was a tough and uncompromising businessman, frequently levelled with charges of megalomania, but in The Chief Andrew Roberts puts Northcliffe’s ruthlessness in the context of a life of visionary business skill, journalistic brilliance, distinguished wartime public service and heartfelt patriotism. The man was, undoubtedly, a genius – albeit a flawed one. From a modest background, growing up on the outskirts of Dublin, by twenty-seven he presided over a magazine empire with the largest circulation in the world. By the time of his tragically early death in 1922, Northcliffe had founded the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror, and had also owned The Times and the Observer. At one point he owned two thirds of all the titles on Fleet Street.

Based on exclusive access to the Harmsworth family archive, The Chief charts Lord Northcliffe’s rise to power and his highly controversial influence in a politically critical period. His influence still resonates today both through his remarkable business innovations and in the way we consume our news and politics.

Publisher Review

'Roberts does a superb job of bringing [Northcliffe's story] alive... His pages fizz with character and colour...but at their heart is Northcliffe himself: charismatic, swashbuckling, admirable and appalling. His book is littered with affairs, tantrums and tirades, all of which add considerably to its attractions... Some of the most memorable scenes come in the early 1920s, as Northcliffe succumbs to all-out megalomania.' -- Dominic Sandbrook * Sunday Times * 'With an experienced historian's use of contemporary documents, Roberts makes Northcliffe's eventful life a panoramic account of his times... [a] restrained, scholarly and very readable book.' -- Andrew Lycett * Spectator * 'Lord Northcliffe...was the daddy of all press barons...classless, dynamic and fearless. This compelling biography...leaves you exhausted by the sheer work that bred success. Northcliffe had his faults...but what an exciting man he must have been to work for.' -- Quentin Letts * The Times * 'The way Roberts persuasively tells it, not only did Northcliffe establish the template for British journalism ever since, but he also did much to win the First World War. You do finish The Chief utterly open-mouthed at all that Northcliffe got done in his 57 years. -- James Walton * Daily Telegraph * 'Towards the end of The Chief, his keenly researched biography of Lord Northcliffe, the Daily Mail founder and "Britain's greatest press baron", the historian Andrew Roberts observes: "Great men are seldom nice men."...there's no question that Northcliffe was indeed an exceptional character... His last months were spent in a state of delirium that manifested as extreme megalomania.' -- Andrew Anthony * Observer * 'Long before Rupert Murdoch, there was Alfred Harmsworth. The original and probably the greatest UK press baron...the man who styled himself "the Chief" set a tone and style for popular newspapers that still prevails today. Roberts is keen to dispel myths of megalomania, until Harmsworth's final short illness destroys his mind... While mostly friendly, the author is critical at times and unsparing about Harmsworth's zealous anti-Semitism. It's a pacy and enjoyable read.' -- Robert Shrimsley * Financial Times * 'Reading this energetic and hugely entertaining biography, you are trapped on a carousel in an insane fairground, whizzing round and round inside the head of "the Chief". What hits you again and again is the absolute randomness of his inspired, sometimes loathsome, obsessions.' -- A.N.Wilson * Times Literary Supplement * 'Lord Northcliffe - founder of the Daily Mail, inventor of tabloid journalism, the most significant media innovator of the early 20th century - ended up in Hell... This has long been the highbrow take on Northcliffe. Shovelling information and entertainment was Northcliffe's business model. His conjuror's trick was simple: give as many people as possible what they want. It is the megalomaniac perception of Northcliffe that Andrew Roberts seeks to rebut in a new and sympathetic biography. [Rupert Murdoch] took Northcliffe's principles and dialled them up.' -- Nicholas Harris * UnHerd * 'This intriguing sympathetic to its subject, Roberts does not gloss over the darker side of Harmsworth's life and his foibles: his anti-Semitism, his quirky prejudices and his eventual descent into madness. Northcliffe died 100 years ago, and his legacy was the British popular press as we know it.' -- Kim Bielenberg * Irish Independent *

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