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Knowledge is power [electronic resource] : the diffusion of information in early America, 1700-1865 /
Richard D. Brown.
New York : Oxford University Press, 1989.
xii, 372 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.
More Details
New York : Oxford University Press, 1989.
Licensed for access by U. of T. users.
general note
Includes index.
catalogue key
Bibliography: p. [303]-361.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Richard D. Brown is Professor of History at The University of Connecticut.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1990-05:
Brown (University of Connecticut) traces the democratization of American society from a fresh angle: information flow. Through a series of discrete but related case studies, he shows how the political and commerical "establishment" lost its control of information, how the communication revolution of the early 19th century offered average citizens many ways of connecting to the wider world, and how information diffusion contributed to a remarkable "leveling up" of discourse. Demonstrating an awesome command of relevant sources, Brown has fashioned an impressive argument for the vitality of pre-Civil War northern popular culture. His case for the trend toward information consumerism is clearly made, if occasionally repetitive. Less clear is the relevance of the book's title; Brown nowhere demonstrates that knowledge translated into political or economic power for the average American. Nor can the work, which is focused on a cross-section of Protestant males whose writings were left to posterity, definitively speak to the American condition. Nonetheless, Brown has made a valuable contribution to cultural history. Excellent illustrations and rich endnotes. For college and university libraries. -M. J. Birkner, Gettysburg College
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, May 1990
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Long Description
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.
Table of Contents
Introductionp. 3
Information and Authority in Samuel Sewall's Boston, 1676-1729p. 16
William Byrd II and the Challenge of Rusticity Among the Tidewater Gentryp. 42
Rural Clergymen and the Communication Networks of 18th-Century New Englandp. 65
Lawyers, Public Office, and Communication Patterns in Provincial Massachusetts: The Early Careers of Robert Treat Paine and John Adams, 1749-1774p. 82
Communications and Commerce: Information Diffusion in Northern Ports from the 1760s to the 1790sp. 110
Information and Insularity: The Experiences of Yankee Farmers, 1711-1830p. 132
Daughters, Wives, Mothers: Domestic Roles and the Mastery of Affective Information, 1765-1865p. 160
William Bentley and the Ideal of Universal Information in the Englightened Republicp. 197
Choosing One's Fare: Northern Men in the 1840sp. 218
The Dynamics of Contagious Diffusion: The Battles of Lexington and Concord, George Washington's Death, and the Assassination of President Lincoln, 1775-1865p. 245
Conclusionp. 268
Appendixp. 297
Notesp. 303
Indexp. 363
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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