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(ebook) Spreading the News

In the seven decades from its establishment in 1775 to the commercialization of the electric telegraph in 1844, the American postal system spurred a communications revolution no less far-reaching than the subsequent revolutions associated with the telegraph, telephone, and computer. This book tells the story of that revolution and the challenge it posed for American business, politics, and cultural life. During the early republic, the postal system was widely hailed as one of the most important institutions of the day. No other institution had the capacity to transmit such a large volume of information on a regular basis over such an enormous geographical expanse. The stagecoaches and postriders who conveyed the mail were virtually synonymous with speed. In the United States, the unimpeded transmission of information has long been hailed as a positive good. In few other countries has informational mobility been such a cherished ideal. Richard John shows how postal policy can help explain this state of affairs. He discusses its influence on the development of such information-intensive institutions as the national market, the voluntary association, and the mass party. He traces its consequences for ordinary Americans, including women, blacks, and the poor. In a broader sense, he shows how the postal system worked to create a national society out of a loose union of confederated states. This exploration of the role of the postal system in American public life provides a fresh perspective not only on an important but neglected chapter in American history, but also on the origins of some of the most distinctive features of American life today.Table of Contents: Preface Acknowledgments The Postal System as an Agent of Change The Communications Revolution Completing the Network The Imagined Community The Invasion of the Sacred The Wellspring of Democracy The Interdiction of Dissent Conclusion Abbreviations Notes Sources IndexReviews of this book: "e;[A] splendid new book...that gives the lie to any notion that 'government' and 'administration' were 'absent' in early America."e; --Theda Skocpol, Social Science History "e;This well-researched and elegantly written book will become a model for historians attempting to link public policy to cultural and political change...[It] will engage not only historians of the early republic, but all scholars interested in the relationship between state and society."e; --John Majewski, Journal of Economic History "e;The strength of the book is...the author's ability to untangle the thousands of social, political, economic, and cultural threads of the postal fabric and to rearrange them into a clear and compelling social history."e; --Roy Alden Atwood, Journal of American History "e;Richard R. John provides an insightful cultural history of the often-overlooked American postal system, concentrating on its preeminent status for long-distance communication between its birth in 1775 and the commercialization of the electric telegraph in 1844...John effectively draws upon government documents, newspapers, travelogues, and contemporary social and political histories to argue that the postal system causes and mirrors dramatic changes in American public life during this period...John focuses his study on the communication revolution of the past, yet his meticulous analysis of the complex motives forming the postal institution and its policies relate to such current controversies as those that surround the transmission of information in cyberspace. These contemporary disputes highlight the power of the government in shaping the communication of the people. John privileges the postal institution as the reigning communication system, yet he links it with the developing ideology of the nation, and the scope of his study ensures its value--in the disciplines of communication studies, literature, history, and political science, among others--as a history of the past and present
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PRODUCT DETAILS

  • Title: (ebook) Spreading the News
  • Author: Richard R. JOHN, Richard R. JOHN
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • ISBN: 9780674039148
  • Languages: English

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