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By Alison Blunt; et al

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Just as newspapers tend to carry a very limited range of stories, so too the interpretation of events offered by different newspapers (give or take some limited party political differences) are often very similar. Hall et al. refer to this as the ‘limits to debate’ that define day-to-day newspaper coverage, suggesting that far from fostering public debate the purpose of such coverage is actually to secure a consensual picture of the world where no such consensus exists (S. , 1978). Accepting this to be broadly true, more recent work on the newspaper press has sought to explain in more detail how and why such a consensus might emerge.

This seems a curious and somewhat unglamorous place to start, but in many ways I’d worked out exactly what I didn’t want to do for my study before I came to realise what I did want to do. That realisation was provoked by several lectures and practicals using qualitative sources for geographical analysis which stimulated me to think carefully about what things I enjoyed. My thoughts turned to two of my favourite novels, George Orwell’s (1949) Nineteen Eighty-Four and Aldous Huxley’s (1932) Brave New World, and the potential for writing geographies of their dystopian futures.

You then need to find out whether there are archival sources that relate to what you have identified, and whether you are able to get access to them. The second way is to find a set of archival materials – of whatever form or format you like – that interests you, and then work out how and why they were gathered. Here you need to recontextualise the archive in order to understand them as part of a process of state formation. It is, of course, perfectly possible and possibly preferable to do both, tracing processes of state formation and the archival sources for them at the same time.

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