What was the point of Jacobite propaganda?
Propaganda is information made to influence public opinion. In this lesson you are going to look at extracts from three examples of printed propaganda produced by the Jacobites and another from the protestant Scottish Church which opposed them.
The term Jacobite comes from the word Jacobus, Latin for James. The first three sources are examples of how the supporters James Francis Edward Stuart (also referred to as ‘The Old Pretender’) son of James II, deposed king of England, tried to persuade the people of Scotland to restore the Stuarts and their heirs to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland.
In these documents the Jacobites attacked the government of Britain and criticised the House of Hanover’s right to the throne. It was difficult to control this material as printing presses were cheap and easy to get hold of and it was possible to print broadsheets, handbills or songs anonymously. This made it hard for the authorities to stop the spread of these papers and arrest the publishers. What tended to happen was that supporters of the British government printed their own propaganda in return to attack the Jacobites, an example of this is provided by the fourth source. However, it could be argued that as the Whig government produced their own pamphlets in response to the Jacobites, it strengthened, rather than weakened the cause in the early decades of the 18th century.
This lesson is a suggestion for how our Jacobite document collections could be used to create your own enquiry question for a lesson. The documents used come from Jacobite Rising 1715: Rebels with a cause? Here you could also listen to an audio file of the complete source or explore other documents available in the collection to provide further context for this lesson. There is a second document collection available on The Jacobite Rebellion 1745: a serious threat to the Hanoverians?
In this lesson transcripts are provided for each of the source extracts with a glossary. Other words are defined within square brackets in the transcript itself.
Propaganda has been commonly associated with modern industrial societies and those governments wanting to influence public opinion and distribute particular information using the mass media. In the 20th century, for example, from Nazi Germany to the era of the Cold War, radio, film, recorded music and television have all been used to construct particular messages for the public.
Again the print media, such as newspapers, books, pamphlets, cartoons, posters and comics have also served the same purpose. Our key stage 2 lesson on government propaganda on the home front in the Second World War looks at posters and film and considers the nature of persuasive writing (see related resources section).
In earlier times too, we can find evidence of propaganda campaigns, such as those used by anti-slavery Abolitionists in Britain and the United States in the 19th century.
Access to the technology of the printing press was the key for the spread of ideas and information on a wider scale. Historically, we have seen this from the European Reformation onwards. You can also find examples of print propaganda for the parliamentarian side in the 1640s in our English Civil War website. It is no surprise therefore, that the Jacobites and their opposition harnessed the power of the press.
Finally, academic studies of the nature of 20th century propaganda have highlighted some techniques which would seem to feature in earlier printed material as part of the general attempt to persuade or influence opinion. For example, you may wish to discuss with your pupils, before looking at the sources, how generally propaganda may aim to achieve the following points and then consider how they apply to the examples used in this lesson.
Does the printed material contain any evidence of the following techniques?
- Appeal to authority (In this case to King James VIII and III and ancestors or House of Hanover)
- Appeal to fear (What will happen if a person does not support the Jacobites/or Church of Scotland/House of Hanover?)
- Appeal to prejudice (any use of emotive terms, language, and/or overtone that to achieve victory it is necessary to stay with the cause?)
- A repeated lie (The term ‘The Old Pretender’, the pupils should research the origin of this label and how it is used)
- Appeal to common sense? (Is there any evidence of this in the texts & what makes this a persuasive technique?)
- Cult of personality (Is an idealized image/unquestioning flattery employed, is praise for Stuarts or Hanover evident?)
- Demonization of the enemy (who and how?)
- Repetition of phrases/words (how is this used?)
- Use of virtue words such as peace, happiness, security, justice, leadership, freedom (Are these to construct an image of the Stuarts or Hanoverians?)
Source 1: Jacobite song, catalogue ref: SP 35/40 f179
Source 2: Jacobite handbill, catalogue ref: SP 35/1/f30
Source 3: Jacobite handbill, catalogue ref: SP 54/10/17
Source 4: Scottish Church pamphlet, catalogue ref: SP 54/10/5B
Education Scotland’s website providing an introduction to history of the Jacobites.
The National Archives Pinterest board on the Jacobites brings the best web resources on the subject into one place.Back to top