A People's History
Distributed for University of Wales Press
In the week following the death of Princess Diana, the media presented images of the entire British nation united in tearful, hysterical grief to mourn their “People’s Princess.” However, despite this emphasis on the response of the “people,” there has so far been no detailed examination of popular attitudes or media coverage during September 1997.
James Thomas radically challenges the myths surrounding the mourning with the first ever “people’s history” of the week. He combines a detailed survey of media coverage with analysis of a range of qualitative and quantitative evidence about popular attitudes, especially those of the “ordinary” people across Britain who recorded their views and actions for the Mass-Observation of Britain project.
Diana’s Mourning provides fascinating evidence of the diversity, complexity and ambiguity of popular reactions to Diana’s death, and demonstrates that, far from being united, the British people were in fact deeply divided in grief in September 1997. It not only questions the accuracy of media representations of popular opinion, but also illustrates the media’s power to influence attitudes and shape the myth of a nation in mourning.
“This soundly researched and eminently readable volume is the first rigorous, impartial analysis of popular attitudes and media coverage and bias during early September 1997. Using the results of a mass observation project, a range of opinion polls, newspaper and journal coverage, and a huge number of secondary sources, James Thomas pinpoints and dissects the range of conflicting reactions to the tragic events of August 31.
Indeed, he demonstrates how the British people were in fact deeply divided in their responses to Diana's death and its aftermath. He shows conclusively how the media, far from reflecting and describing the grief of the nation, in fact led and moulded it. Somehow, the attitudes of those assembled and thus interviewed in the Mall and outside Kensington Palace at the heart of the metropolis were viewed as the reaction of the entire nation. Responses in the provinces were given notably short shrift. In his conclusion, the author contrasts the popular memory of September 1997 with the myth of the blitz in World War Two. Media power, hugely and perilously undemocratic, dwarfed people power, potentially democratic and accountable. This pioneering volume is certainly a stimulating and eye-opening read.” --www.gwales.com
“ . . . Diana’s Mourning proves to be a lively, thoughtful text urging us to embrace the difference, contradiction and complexity of popular responses to the death. Importantly, Thomas writes with sensitivity and avoids the pitfalls of sentimentality and/or sneering. Moreover, it is a welcome addition to the cultural and social history of monarchy and celebrity and, notably, to the significance or the media in shaping our understanding of news and nation . . .” –Contemporary British History