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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 is an assistant professor of history at Framingham State University.

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

9781421428604 : revolutionary-networks-adelman
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