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Arthur Mee

Arthur Mee: A Biography

Keith Crawford
Copyright Date: 2016
Published by: Lutterworth Press
Pages: 224
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    Arthur Mee
    Book Description:

    A biography of the journalist and children's editor and writer, Arthur Mee (1875-1943). It draws on approximately 700 letters sent by Mee to his friend John Derry, as well as letters between Mee and Alfred Harmsworth. The book aims to enable readers to locate the brand of Arthur Mee as journalist and children's editor/author within the wider cultural, political and social context of England c. 1900-1943 and provide an antidote to the “overly romanticized nostalgia attached to Mee's name". There is a focus on Mee’s patriotism, faith and belief in Empire, and discussion of his creation of the Children’s Encyclopaedia and Children’s Newspaper.

    eISBN: 978-0-7188-4461-5
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgements (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface (pp. xiii-xx)
  6. 1. Beginnings (pp. 1-17)

    Arthur Henry Mee was born in Stapleford, Nottinghamshire, on 21 July 1875. Ten kilometres south-west of Nottingham, Stapleford was in the year of his birth an unremarkable community of 2,000 inhabitants. The village economy once reliant upon agriculture had by 1851 turned towards hosiery and lace manufacture following the growth of a factory-based industry. While agriculture and coal mining remained sources of work, from the 1870s Stapleford owed a substantial growth in population to its emergence as a satellite for the lace industry in Nottingham.

    In 1881 the population of Stapleford had shown a significant increase, a trend that continued...

  7. 2. Caught in the Harmsworth Web (pp. 18-34)

    Born in Dublin in 1865 into a family of lawyers and clergymen, Alfred Harmsworth began to develop an interest in journalism editing his school magazine. Having left school, he worked freelance for several magazines and newspapers, before, aged twenty, being asked to editYouth, an illustrated magazine for boys, and, in 1886,Bicycling News.¹ But Harmsworth’s ambitions went beyond writing for magazines and newspapers to owning them. His ability, some said genius, was to spot a public trend and exploit it and from the outset he was set on taking advantage of rising levels of literacy by publishing magazines and...

  8. 3. Manufacturing a Brand (pp. 35-57)

    Living in England during the first decade of the twentieth century was an exhilarating and un settling experience for many, whose lives wavered between pessimism and doubt, hope and excitement. Edwardian England was stimulated by a myriad of fresh opinions, ideas, novelties, aspirations and innovations.¹ The economist and anti-imperialist John Hobson described a world in which people were “possessed by the duty and the desire to put the very questions which their parents felt shocking, and to insist upon plain intelligible answers. What is more, they want all those questions answered at once.”²

    The quickening pace and scope of change...

  9. 4. God, Faith and Evolution (pp. 58-73)

    By the beginning of the twentieth century, many of those living within industrialised towns and cities had disconnected themselves from the teachings of the church that had once forged such a resilient connection between lifestyle and faith.¹ While they remained inexactly and vaguely committed to belief in a Christian God, many became indifferent and antagonistic towards organised religion.² The intellectual and social challenges of the day caused a re-evaluation of commitments to theological principles. Long working hours, the emergence of a class consciousness that drew people to the Labour Party, organised sport, the music hall and modern literature all challenged...

  10. 5. A Matchless England (pp. 74-85)

    Mee’s Victorian education and its identification with all things English did its job well. Throughout his life he passionately and dogmatically endorsed an ideology of Englishness and remained an unreconstructed Englishman. He thought of himself as English first, with being British a poor second best. When planningThe King’s England, he was clear that the “motherland” was England pure and simple, writing to Derry with a mixture of mischievous sarcasm and no little impatience:

    Also remember that this is a book of our Motherland, and as you are not a Scot I will whisper ever so softly in your ear...

  11. 6. An Accidental Empire (pp. 86-101)

    Through its Empire England enjoyed authority over more than 450 million people, providing the nation with unparalleled power, prestige and political control. But the processes of imperialism and imperial expansion had been extraordinarily complex and how the Empire was perceived varied greatly. In November 1899 Henry Campbell-Bannerman claimed, “[E]veryone nowadays appears to cultivate some peculiar species of his own of what is called Imperialism and to try to get one qualifying adjective of his own before the word.”¹ One distinction was between those who saw the Empire as a critical source of markets and investment opportunities and those saw in...

  12. 7. Society, Humanity and Order (pp. 102-123)

    Throughout his life, Mee remained wedded to the doctrines of liberalism taught him by his father. Like many nonconformists, his faith and politics were closely integrated and in any discussion of his social values and beliefs it is impossible to separate the two. He was committed to the view that the role of liberalism was to remove obstacles to individual liberties. In a 1922 editorial inThe Children’s Newspaperhe wrote,

    The glory of a nation is individualism, the self-reliance and driving power of the individual citizen. . . . Happiness goes hand in hand with high endeavour. The man...

  13. 8. The Challenge of the Modern (pp. 124-141)

    Post-war society faced the challenge of coming to terms with what T.S. Eliot inThe Wasteland(1922) called “a heap of broken images”, whereby venerated icons, touchstones of value and things that compelled consent became disputed. Those who fought in the unimaginable slaughter of the First World War and the millions it affected were changed forever. There was no village, town or city that was not haunted by the memories of those who had left and never returned. Within a context of grief, anger and uncertainty, it seemed impossible that society would not journey towards a very different world. For...

  14. 9. “A Heartbreaking World” (pp. 142-156)

    The horror and destruction of the First World War convinced Mee that a peaceful and progressive future depended upon the prevention of further conflicts, and he became a passionate supporter of the League of Nations and disarmament. Despite what he saw around him, he continued to believe that nations would make binding promises to be ethical and transparent in their dealings with each other.¹ He was convinced that disarmament would ensure the abandonment of war as a means of settling disputes; otherwise Europe would drift inexorably towards destruction.² On New Year’s Eve 1921, writing inThe Children’s Newspaperthat the...

  15. Notes (pp. 157-187)
  16. Bibliography (pp. 188-196)
  17. Back Matter (pp. 197-197)