From the Suffragettes to Lucky Jim

A century of weekly journalism by some of the great writers of the age makes a mighty quarry for the geologist to wander into with his hammer. This supplement, the first of two, represents a modest bagful of samples, some of them glittering and some more plain, that give a hint of how the New Statesman has seen its times. The magazine's Fabian founders described at the outset the goal for which they wanted it to strive - "a State in which health, comfort, culture and personal freedom are the rules instead of the exceptions" - and that humane approach infuses much of what it has published since. But there was a great deal that the founders could not anticipate, including two world wars, the Russian revolution, the Depression, the cold war and the rise of mass media. And while these developments often dictated a different agenda, social change also steadily altered the tone of a journal which, in its early years, could be comically condescending.

No selection on this scale could be representative. What appears here is not a reflection of fame - Shaw, Belloc, Ransome and Forster, among others, have been left out. Nor does it imply that the New Statesman has been consistently loyal to its ideals; it has not. It is merely a collection of nuggets that catch the end-of-century eye. The headlines, so far as possible, are the originals, while the text has been edited for length as it would be today (even where that has meant cutting George Orwell's copy). A number of articles appear with no byline; either they were editorials or they were published anonymously, which was commoner then than now. - Brian Cathcart

Brian Cathcart is Director of Hacked Off. He tweets as @BrianCathcart.

This article first appeared in the 29 November 1999 issue of the New Statesman, An explosion of puffery