OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

Historian explores ‘communication revolution’ of Civil War era, and what it means today

04/23/2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A historian will address the ways communication changed and evolved before the Civil War, and suggest some ways of thinking critically about the relationship between technological innovation and social change, in a lecture on Tuesday, May 4 at Oregon State University.

The free public lecture will begin at 4 p.m. in the Memorial Union Journey Room, 2501 S.W. Jefferson Way, Corvallis. It is the third lecture in the 2009–10 American Culture & Politics speaker series.

David Henkin’s talk is titled “What is a Communications Revolution? (And Did One Take Place Before the Civil War?)”

Recent historians of the antebellum United States have stressed the transformative character of communications during the second quarter of the 19th century. Daniel Walker Howe’s Pulitzer Prize–winning synthesis, “What Hath God Wrought,” nominates the “communications revolution” as a suitable title for an era traditionally identified with Andrew Jackson and mass democracy.

But in the modern era, surrounded by familiar claims and promises of new media to bring about revolution, what is the meaning and utility of the concept of “communications revolution?” 

Henkin is professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught about 19th-century America for the past 13 years. He is the author of “City Reading: Written Words and Public Spaces in Antebellum New York” (Columbia University Press, 1998) and “The Postal Age: The Emergence of Modern Communications in Nineteenth-Century America” (University of Chicago Press, 2006).

This American Culture & Politics speaker series is sponsored by the Horning Endowment in the Humanities. For more information, contact 541-737-8560 or visit www.oregonstate.edu/cla/history