Journal Article

Communications Revolutions: A Historiographical Concept

Wolfgang Behringer

in German History

Published on behalf of German History Society

Volume 24, issue 3, pages 333-374
Published in print July 2006 | ISSN: 0266-3554
Published online July 2006 | e-ISSN: 1477-089X | DOI:
Communications Revolutions: A Historiographical Concept

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This essay explores the origins and the development of a ‘communications revolution’, which would give rise to a new concept within historiography. It proposes that the Communications Revolution can be explained as a macrohistorical process, comparable to the Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, which have both had permanent and irreversible consequences in the modern era. The communications revolution, like the other two, began in the early modern era, and is still ongoing. The concept of a Communications Revolution encompasses smaller ‘media revolutions’, more easily ascribed to a specific historical period, and to a large extent mutually interrelated and dependent. The development of postal services gave rise to a new understanding of space and time, and it is this development that the essay identifies as the mainspring of change in the communications revolution. Postal services enabled faster movements of people, goods, and information. The new medium of the printed book, newspaper or sheet magnified the effects of this faster dissemination of information and news. So the Communications Revolution can be argued to have been the motor that enabled the construction of the infrastructure of the modern world, newspapers, cartography, and the ‘public sphere’ of politics, of warfare and diplomacy. Indeed, there is scope for discussion as to whether it was in fact the Communications Revolution which may have opened the way for both the Scientific Revolution and the Industrial Revolution.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: European History

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