As the results of last week’s PR Week survey show, the vast majority of
the British public have never even heard of the term spin doctor, but
they are hardly a new breed.
This month’s History Today shows that spin doctors have existed in one
form or another for more than 150 years.
The term itself is said to come from Jacob Faithfull, an 1835 novel by
Captain Frederick Marryat, which begins: ‘Come doctor, spin us one of
your yarns.’ Royal spinners go back even further than that.
William Cobbett became press counsellor to Queen Caroline in 1821, while
a generation before Joseph Doane was recruited to improve George III’s
More recent parallels can be drawn between Boris Yeltsin’s health
problems and the stroke which incapacitated Churchill in 1953. Calling
on the skills of his press baron friend Lord Camrose, Churchill hung on
to power for another two years. It remains to be seen if Yeltsin will
last that long.
edited by Rebecca Dowman