Information in the Transformation
of the United States
The general topic of the role of information in the development of the American character and in influencing the course of events has long interested historians and, recently, economists. The work, however, has been piecemeal in nature: a study here on freedom of expression in the early days of the Republic, a study there about the role of information in the U.S. economy of the late twentieth century, another on communications and information flows in late nineteenth-century corporations, and so forth. In short, there has been a constant stream of studies on aspects of the role of information in American society. In the present book, we attempt to bring together the thinking of many historians, sociologists, and economists on the deployment of information, and information-handling technologies, in North America and about its role in the development of U.S. society, with a particular emphasis on business and economic issues. The closest to covering the topic as a whole was Steven Lubar of the Smithsonian Institution, who wrote Infoculture: The Smithsonian Book of Information Age Inventions (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, I993); a lavishly illustrated history of various inventions from the printing press to the computer, including a lively narrative and a bibliography. Aimed at general readers is Wade Rowland's Spirit of the Web: The Age of Information from Telegraph to Internet (Toronto: Somerville House, 1994), and Brian Winston, Media Technology and Society: A History from the Telegraph to the Internet (London: Routledge, 1998). But the underlying work of many previous scholars enriches the whole topic of information in America. This bibliographic essay suggests some of the most obvious and readily accessible studies one can look at to gain a deeper knowledge of the themes explored in this book.
For the earliest years of the North American experience there are two books. The first, David Cressy, Coming Over: Migration and Communication between