Leeds nostalgia: What made the news in 1796

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Turn the clock back 200 years or so and the front pages of newspapers looked somewhat different than their modern counterparts.

There were no banner headlines, no salacious pictures shaming the socialites of the day. Instead, front pages were businesslike affairs containing bankruptcy notices, job advertisements and other observances dealing with trade, the state of local bridges, items lost and found and court rulings.

The front page of The Leeds Intelligencer of August 22, 1796 was just so. On August 5, Napoleon Bonaparte defeated the Austrian army (25,000 men) at the Battle of Castiglione and on August 19, Spain and France formed an alliance against Great Britain.

The Intelligencer carried an account of the peace negotiations, which were taking place in Germany. Despite this, Bonaparte was still pushing his troops across Europe and into Bohemia, which threatened drawing Russia into the conflict, who said that if war continued “and the French persist in their design of invading his hereditary dominions, she will, in compliance with existing treaties, give orders to 60,000 men to march for the purpose of affording protection to Bohemia and the Austrian frontiers.”

Further on in the paper, there were several death notices, including one of a boy killed in Tadcaster, dragged to death after his foot caught in the stirrup of a horse he had been watering, another of three men buried “on the flood road near Nottingham” after a bridge collapsed upon them, one of a man who “drank some stale ale” while working the fields in Hull and later died and one of Ralph Whitehead, of Shadwell, who accidently shot and killed his friend, James Harrop, while out hunting after he walked in front of the gun.