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Revolutionary Networks

The Business and Politics of Printing the News, 1763–1789

During the American Revolution, printed material, including newspapers, pamphlets, almanacs, and broadsides, played a crucial role as a forum for public debate. In Revolutionary Networks, Joseph M. Adelman argues that printers—artisans who mingled with the elite but labored in a manual trade—used their commercial and political connections to directly shape Revolutionary political ideology and mass mobilization. Going into the printing offices of colonial America to explore how these documents were produced, Adelman shows how printers balanced their own political beliefs and interests alongside the commercial interests of their businesses, the customs of the printing trade, and the prevailing mood of their communities.

Adelman describes how these laborers repackaged oral and manuscript compositions into printed works through which political news and opinion circulated. Drawing on a database of 756 printers active during the Revolutionary era, along with a rich collection of archival and printed sources, Adelman surveys printers' editorial strategies. Moving chronologically through the era of the American Revolution and to the war's aftermath, he details the development of the networks of printers and explains how they contributed to the process of creating first a revolution and then the new nation.

By underscoring the important and intertwined roles of commercial and political interests in the development of Revolutionary rhetoric, this book essentially reframes our understanding of the American Revolution. Printers, Adelman argues, played a major role as mediators who determined what rhetoric to amplify and where to circulate it. Offering a unique perspective on the American Revolution and early American print culture, Revolutionary Networks reveals how these men and women managed political upheaval through a commercial lens.

About the Author

Joseph M. Adelman (FRAMINGHAM, MA) is an associate professor of history at Framingham State University.

Reviews

"There is surprisingly little substantial, archivally-resourceful scholarship on newspapers during the American Revolution. The work that does exist often focuses on the consumption of newspapers, rather than their production. For this reason alone, Adelman's Revolutionary Networks is an important contribution for early American historians. But through his careful reconstruction of printers' networks, he has done more than 'fill a gap'—he has welcomed readers into a largely unfamiliar world in ways that will surprise and delight even those who are well-acquainted with early American newspapers."

- The Junto

"Revolutionary Networks is consequently an important work that partially applies a new reading of printers through the methods of book history, whereby the actual production of the product is central to the historical narrative. Sections of Revolutionary Networks that explore those methods of production, the technological constraints of printing, and the ways those procedures altered narratives of political change are important and relatively new within the historiography."

- JHISTORY

"A powerful reason to read Adelman's book is that many of the Revolutionary-era publishing trends regarding growth, profitability, advocacy, and polarization ring true today. For that reason, I particularly recommend Revolutionary Networks to those interested in the impact of news media on our contemporary political processes. Further, general and scholarly Revolutionary era readers will benefit from a fuller understanding of the impact the publishing industry had on all sides of the conflict. From an historical approach perspective, Adelman's innovative use of data analytics supported by detailed case studies is an excellent example for researchers to follow when reinterpreting historical periods. Lastly, Adelman points out the fallacies of oversimplifications and one-sided views, lessons that all of us need to keep front and center."

- Journal of the American Revolution

"Joseph Adelman has looked with fresh focus at printing during the last gasp of colonial America and the toddler years of the new republic, dissecting the printing business as it existed roughly from the Stamp Act to the Constitution... [A]ny aficionado of the American Revolution would find [this book] fascinating. The book might well be of interest to historians not just in American history and media history, but also in business history. Revolutionary Networks offers a worthwhile angle for considering the American media as the nation transformed from British to American."

- American Journalism

"Throughout six rich and elegantly written chapters, Adelman chronologically explores how American printers navigated a difficult world first moved by local resistance to unexpected imperial regulations, then deeply shaken by protest and war, and finally transformed by the new political and economic challenges of the nascent nation. Revolutionary Networks provides an original analytical framework to understand the vital role that printers had in the configuration of the American Revolution and, therefore, is a valuable addition to what we know about printers and newspapers in the Revolutionary Atlantic world."

- Journal of the Early Republic

"With an extensive list of notable contributions to a variety of publications, podcasts, and institutes, historian Joseph M. Adelman has helped immensely in gaining a better understanding of Colonial and Revolutionary America. Through his research, Adelman sets out to uncover the remarkable effect that printers and their publications had for both the Loyalist whom was bent on recovering His Majesty's favor, and the Patriot leaning towards separation during the War for Independence. Adelman has researched his subject with devoted attention all the way through to the very opening years of the Early Republic, and compares and chronicles the struggle of having to cope with changes in territory, new competition, and political ideals."

- The Colonial Review

"With Revolutionary Networks, Joseph Adelman has delivered an elegant and satisfying explanation of several major changes in early American print culture. This will be useful to anyone trying to do original research in the period, since Adelman demystifies many of the eccentricities of Revolutionary-era newspapers. All historians studying the Stamp Act crisis should take this book into account. And Revolutionary Networks will be indispensable to anyone studying the early history of American news media. Adelman's prose is clear enough to make Revolutionary Networks valuable to almost any reader interested in how Americans in the age of Holt and Rivington spread the news."

- The Gotham Center for New York City History

Endorsements

"A timely and important contribution to the histories of early American politics and printing, Revolutionary Networks is an authoritative and engaging guide to the volatile compound of commercial calculations, logistical challenges, social connections, and political interests that produced the news for a new nation."

- Mark G. Schmeller, Syracuse University, author of Invisible Sovereign: Imagining Public Opinion from the Revolution to Reconstruction

"Elegantly written and meticulously researched, Revolutionary Networks upends our understanding of the American Revolution. Adelman explains how printers shaped the revolution and struggled in the world they had wrought before finally laying the foundation of America's fourth estate. A must-read for those interested in early American politics and journalism."

- Gautham Rao, American University, author of National Duties: Custom Houses and the Making of the American State

"Adelman convinces us to put aside any fantasies of independent, heroic printers taking principled political stands and embrace instead the reality of businessmen printers who collected and collaborated to create the texts that shaped public opinion while reflecting it. In his telling, the celebrated 'free and open press' was a canny business strategy, thus reorienting our assumptions about the Revolutionary era in exciting new ways."

- Ellen Hartigan-O'Connor, University of California, Davis, author of The Ties That Buy: Women and Commerce in Revolutionary America

"A fascinating in-depth study of the business and political lives of printers in the period before, during, and immediately after the American Revolution... This work brings to life a period in American history when the printing press played a significant cultural and political role, and it tells those stories in an entertaining and accessible manner."

- Catherine Armstrong - Publishing History

9781421428604 : revolutionary-networks-adelman
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