Robert Darnton, Emeritus Harvard University librarian and renowned historian of the French Enlightenment, delivered a lecture on the history of communication before a large crowd at the American Historical Association. Only a handful of days after fears of a global collapse (Y2K) subsided, Darnton historicized our own information age and argued that “communication systems” have always shaped events. Darnton described the growing print industry of the eighteenth century, as well as the oral news networks at work in the city of lights, mobilizing le peuple, along with would-be French revolutionary politicians, to revolution. Other historians picked up where Darnton left off, examining the ways that French radical and conservative news outlets shaped the revolutionary experience itself. In short, information networks formed and imagined Revolution. The series we’ve put together here at AoR, seeks to explore the information age of the Age of Revolutions, examining the ways that information traveled and made revolution thinkable.
In many ways, this series covers fairly well-trodden ground, but addresses a very real contemporary issue. Seventeen years later, Darnton’s words continue to ring true — the future and the present are constantly battled over in the media. Our contemporary political world also begs scholars to continue to think about information networks and media politics. For example, eighteenth-century readers shared information in different ways, and any news that challenged one’s political position was called into question. “Fake news” is hardly a new opprobrium.
Read the entire introduction here.
Here is the lineup of posts:
September 6, 2017:
Alyssa Zuercher Reichardt, “Information, Empire, and Roads to Revolution”
September 11, 2017:
Joseph M. Adelman, “Meer Mechanics” No More: How Printers Shaped Information in the Revolutionary Age”
September 13, 2017:
Rob Taber, “Rumor and Report in Affiches Améciaines: Saint-Domingue’s American Revolution”
September 18, 2017:
Jordan Taylor, “Information and Ideology in Henri-Antoine Mézière’s Canadian Age of Revolutions”
September 20, 2017:
James Alexander Dun, “Le Cap to Carlisle: News of the Early Haitian Revolution in the United States”
September 25, 2017:
Melanie Conroy, “Visualizing Social Networks: Palladio and the Encyclopédistes, Part I”
September 27, 2017:
Melanie Conroy, “Visualizing Social Networks: Palladio and the Encyclopédistes, Part II”
September 29, 2017:
Information Networks in the Age of Revolutions Bibliography