Synopses & Reviews
Thomas Jefferson's conviction that the health of the nation's democracy would depend on the existence of an informed citizenry has been a cornerstone of our political culture since the inception of the American republic. Even today's debates over education reform and the need to be competitive in a technologically advanced, global economy are rooted in the idea that the education of rising generations is crucial to the nation's future. In this book, Richard Brown traces the development of the ideal of an informed citizenry in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries and assesses its continuing influence and changing meaning.
Although the concept had some antecedents in Europe, the full articulation of the ideal relationship between citizenship and knowledge came during the era of the American Revolution. The founding fathers believed that the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of the press, religion, speech, and assembly would foster an informed citizenry. According to Brown, many of the fundamental institutions of American democracy and society, including political parties, public education, the media, and even the postal system, have enjoyed wide government support precisely because they have been identified as vital for the creation and maintenance of an informed populace.
This excellent book is illuminating and provocative; it is timely as well.
American Historical Review
[An] important and timely book.
Journal of American History
A rich exploration of the connections among ideas of education, citizenship, and political participation in American thought.
Journal of the Early Republic
An important book in the ever-growing fields of book history, printing, and literacy.
[S]uperb intellectual history of a subject that, unlike the principle of freedom of the press, has never been [systematically] explored.
College and Research Libraries
Includes bibliographical references (p. 209-243) and index.
About the Author
Richard D. Brown is professor of history at the University of Connecticut. His books include Knowledge Is Power: The Diffusion of Information in Early America, 1700-1865.
Table of Contents
1. English Subjects and Citizens from the Reformation through the Glorious Revolution
2. Freedom and Citizenship in Britain and Its American Colonies
3. Bulwark of Revolutionary Liberty: The Recognition of the Informed Citizen
4. Shaping an Informed Citizenry for a Republican Future
5. The Idea of an Informed Citizenry and the Mobilization of Institutions, 1820-1850
6. Testing the Meaning of an Informed Citizenry, 1820-1870
Epilogue. Looking Backward: The Idea of an Informed Citizenry at the End of the Twentieth Century
Cover of pamphlet edition of U.S. Constitution, 1833
The American Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge's "American Library," 1837
"The Tawny Girl," 1823
Broadside used to promote Lancasterian schools in Britain, 1813
Illustrations from the Manual of the Lancasterian System, 1820
Sabbath school classroom, 
St. Paul, Minnesota, periodical presenting translation from the Bible in the Dakota language, 1852
Frontispiece for The Liberty Bell showing a white girl instructing black children, 1839
Woodcut suggesting the legitimacy and practicality of African American literacy, 
Image depicting antislavery meeting audience notable for its inclusive representation of citizenship, 1851
Illustration of reception for Daniel Webster portraying the dominant view of citizenship, 1851
Cover illustration for popular song, "We'll Show You When We Come to Vote," presenting an imaginary scene of what would happen if women were enfranchised, 1869
Denial of Victoria Woodhull's attempt to vote in New York City, 1871
African Americans voting in the South, 1867