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A Social History of the Media: From Gutenburg to the Internet Paperback – 14 Dec 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Polity Press (14 Dec. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745623751
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745623757
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 2.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,493,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


′A masterpiece of compression and synthesis. It manages to omit nothing and yet present itself as something much more readable than a hurried review of a vast terrain. It is thoroughly comprehensive. The styles of the two writers mesh very well together. They have adopted an approach which is partly that of a reference work and partly that of a flowing historical discourse. This work has the virtue of being almost an encyclopaedia and so it will be a vital tool for a wide variety of readers.′ Professor Anthony Smith, Magdalen College, University of Oxford

′Recommended for academic libraries needing a general survey of media history ′ Library Journal

"An intelligent, scholarly and eminently sensible introduction to the kind of methodological issues it is actually helpful to address" English Historical Review

"A very readable book." European Journal of Communication

"A Social History of the Media is full of illuminating details and quotations. [It] is an ideal textbook for students and a lesson to professional historians that they need to take the media seriously as a subject in its own right." Bert Hogenkamp, IRSH vol. 49 (2004)

From the Back Cover

Written by two leading social and cultural historians, A Social History of the Media provides a masterful overview of communication media and of the social and cultural contexts within which they emerged and evolved over time. The authors retrace the complex and multiple paths of development, exploring the interrelations between communication media and other aspects of social life.

The scope of this book is far–reaching, exploring the history of the different means of communication in the West from the invention of printing to the Internet. It deals with each constituent element in what came to be called ′the media′ and discusses, among other things, the continuing importance of oral and manuscript communication, the rise of print, the relationship between physical transportation and social communication, and the development of electronic media. The book concludes with an account of the convergences associated with digital communication technology, the rise of the internet and the phenomenon of globalization.

Avoiding technological determinism and rejecting assumptions of straightforward evolutionary progress, this book brings out the rich and varied histories of communication media. It will be an ideal text for students in history, media and cultural studies and journalism, but it will also appeal to a wide general readership.

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Inside This Book

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First Sentence
It was only in the 1920s - according to the Oxford English Dictionary - that people began to speak of 'the media', and a generation later, in the 1950s, of a 'communication revolution', but a concern with the means of communication is very much older than that. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By abhjkmostwy on 20 May 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
good book good source of media studying
it covers all important history in this book
some chapters are very good
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Marvin on 31 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
Used as a textbook for Hsitory of Communications, content is god but the font the too small! bit hard to read!
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Customer on 26 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
Pleased with the item, very good condition, took a while to arrive but i didn't realise it was shipped over from US, seller responds back quickly. Thanks very much
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
great read 17 Dec. 2003
By phil jones - Published on
Format: Paperback
Like other books I've read by Peter Burke, this is a great and informative work. Here he covers the "print revolution in context" showing the who, where, and how of the rise of printing, and discussing it's interaction with the continuing other media types such as oral communication, hand-written documents and visual images (woodcut printing, religious paintings and statuary). He also shows the political and religious conflicts and issues which are locked in a feedback loop with the development of the media.
Fascinating to compare to the rise of modern media types like weblogs in conjunction with the present political discourse.
this is simply the best and most authoritative history of modern media 30 July 2015
By Perli - Published on
Format: Paperback
Seminal work, although first published in 2002, already a classic! In historical terms, this is simply the best and most authoritative history of modern media: it analyzes how each historically new media technology, - starting with print, followed mostly by broadcasting and digital media - transformed traditional social practices and created new ones, altering politics, economy, culture and everyday life in the process. It embeds evolution of modern media into developments of modern history, in political, economic and cultural transformations that created modern Western world. Although it is written in more or less in popular style, this is hardcore historical analysis, so not recommended for uninterested and lazy students (I am so fed up with reviews of seminal works that start with platitudes like "this book was part of my studies, but it uses too many new words and it is too complex for my indolent taste"). The last, 3rd ed. published 2009. Although the authors are old, in 2015 Briggs reached 94, I hope for a new edition and urgent publication in Kindle format. (I possess the 1st ed. in Slovenian translation, and had a look at the changes in the last English ed. as well). Most recommended for seriously researchers with background in history, humanities and social sciences.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Good information, but 18 Feb. 2011
By Alan Ganger - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book has a lot of arcane references. It tries to cover a lot of different aspects regarding the impact of communication media, but if you're looking for a "big picture" book, this might not be for you. It doesn't always connect the dots. It jumps between a lot of very specific examples. You sometimes wonder where they pull an example from. Ah, yes, Charles V visiting Bologna in 1529, of course. I remember it well. An example from the chapter on print:

"In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, small books became popular, the octavo, for instance, or the still smaller 12mo or 16mo format, which the famous Venetian printer Aldo Manuzio used for his editions of the classics."

The authors drop a lot of knowledge like this throughout the book, not always with enough context. But it's sort of up to you to follow up with some of these historical events or figures if you want to know more about it.

Edit: Ah, the authors are from the UK? I was wondering why John Logie Baird got more attention than Philo Pharnsworth.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
An Okay Book on Media and History 19 April 2012
By Daniel - Published on
Format: Paperback
It is easy to read, however the book is jumping constantly in historical time. Then we are in the 1500, then the 1700 and then back to 1600. This sometimes makes it very confusing, and sometimes when reading I don't actually know what time I am in.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Required Text for Class 26 Sept. 2014
By Joey - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
required for History of Mass. Comm. class. Long winded
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