Knowledge Is Power: The Diffusion of Information in Early America, 1700-1865

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Oxford University Press, Sep 5, 1991 - History - 385 pages
Brown here explores America's first communications revolution--the revolution that made printed goods and public oratory widely available and, by means of the steamboat, railroad and telegraph, sharply accelerated the pace at which information travelled. He describes the day-to-day experiences of dozens of men and women, and in the process illuminates the social dimensions of this profound, far-reaching transformation. Brown begins in Massachusetts and Virginia in the early 18th century, when public information was the precious possession of the wealthy, learned, and powerful, who used it to reinforce political order and cultural unity. Employing diaries and letters to trace how information moved through society during seven generations, he explains that by the Civil War era, cultural unity had become a thing of the past. Assisted by advanced technology and an expanding economy, Americans had created a pluralistic information marketplace in which all forms of public communication--print, oratory, and public meetings--were competing for the attention of free men and women. Knowledge is Power provides fresh insights into the foundations of American pluralism and deepens our perspective on the character of public communications in the United States.
 

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Contents

Introduction
3
1 Information and Authority in Samuel Sewalls Boston 16761729
16
2 William Byrd II and the Challenge of Rusticity Among the Tidewater Gentry
42
3 Rural Clergymen and the Communication Networks of 18thCentury New England
65
The Early Careers of Robert Treat Paine and John Adams 17491774
82
Information Diffusion in Northern Ports from the 1760s to the 1790s
110
The Experiences of Yankee Farmers 17111830
132
Domestic Roles and the Mastery of Affective Information 17651865
160
8 William Bentley and the Ideal of Universal Information in the Enlightened Republic
197
Northern Men in the 1840s
218
The Battles of Lexington and Concord George Washingtons Death and the Assassination of President Lincoln 17751865
245
Conclusion
268
Appendix
297
Notes
303
Index
363
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