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The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know about Itselfby Andrew Pettegree
Synopses & Reviews
Long before the invention of printing, let alone the availability of a daily newspaper, people desired to be informed. In the pre-industrial era news was gathered and shared through conversation and gossip, civic ceremony, celebration, sermons, and proclamations. The age of print brought pamphlets, edicts, ballads, journals, and the first news-sheets, expanding the news community from local to worldwide. This groundbreaking book tracks the history of news in ten countries over the course of four centuries. It evaluates the unexpected variety of ways in which information was transmitted in the premodern world as well as the impact of expanding news media on contemporary events and the lives of an ever-more-informed public.
Andrew Pettegree investigates who controlled the news and who reported it; the use of news as a tool of political protest and religious reform; issues of privacy and titillation; the persistent need for news to be current and journalists trustworthy; and peopleand#8217;s changed sense of themselves as they experienced newly opened windows on the world. By the close of the eighteenth century, Pettegree concludes, transmission of news had become so efficient and widespread that European citizensand#151;now aware of wars, revolutions, crime, disasters, scandals, and other eventsand#151;were poised to emerge as actors in the great events unfolding around them.
"Pettegree (The Book in the Renaissance) delineates the history of news delivery in Europe over the course of four centuries in this comprehensive and occasionally dense volume. He tackles this ambitious task both methodically and confidently, charting the ways in which news initially traveled, beginning in 1450 with the years following the invention of printing. Publishers then experimented with pamphlets and broadsheets, new types of books that were 'far shorter and cheaper than the theological and scholarly texts that had dominated the market in manuscripts.' These helped to make news a part of popular culture. Pettegree attributes the early need for political and economic information to their roles in commerce. Merchants in 14th and 15th-century Italy, for example, had to obtain 'vital data on which to base business decisions.' They relied on it. 'But to act on a report that turned out to be false, or exaggerated, could be more disastrous than not to have acted at all.' Trustworthiness was key back then and continues to be a primary concern in journalism. Though Pettegree does not directly address parallels between the emerging news industry centuries ago and the complexities of mass media today, readers will recognize them. The similarities keep his discussion relevant. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The extraordinary history of news and its dissemination, from medieval pilgrim tales to the birth of the newspaper
About the Author
Andrew Pettegree is professor of modern history, University of St. Andrews, and founding director of the St. Andrews Reformation Studies Institute. He now runs the Universal Short Title Catalogue, a free, searchable database of all books published before 1601. He lives in Fife, Scotland.
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