The Early American Press, 1690-1783

By William David Sloan; Julie Hedgepeth Williams | Go to book overview

Bibliographical Essay

As a subject for study, America's early press has held considerable interest for historians. Its special attraction is that the colonial period provided the beginnings of American journalism. It was during the colonial period that the country had its first newspapers and its earliest attempts at various journalistic practices. Historians have directed most of their work at the large contexts of the nature of the press and the role newspapers played in American colonial life and in the development of American journalism. The questions they have tried to answer have dealt for the most part with the influence of the press in the early life of America, the influence colonial society had on the press, and the origins of journalistic practices.

In studying the colonial press, historians have been influenced greatly by their own times and the conditions of journalism and society at the time of their writing. In general, historians of the nineteenth century, writing during an era in which pride in American progress and achievements was popular, took a nationalistic approach and explained the press as influential or important in the early development of the nation. Most later historians generally attempted to explain the press either in terms of professional journalistic practices or in terms of the press's interaction with society. Developmental historians, whose studies of the colonial press proliferated after 1930 and were written at a time during which journalism was gaining sophistication as a profession, attempted to explain the colonial press as the origin of later practices in journalism. Their work was often concerned with chronicling early developments, and their historical view incorporated directly the journalistic standards of their own time. Cultural historians held a broader view of journalism history. Rather than focusing narrowly on the press as a professional institution, they examined the press within the broader context of its society. Their underlying theme was that the characteristics of the press were the result of social influences, although the press at the same time played an important role in colonial society.

Despite such differences in outlook, historians tended to agree about the nature and importance of the colonial press. Journalism, they believed, was in its crude beginnings, but its rawness and inexperience were not serious faults because they were the natural charac-

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The Early American Press, 1690-1783
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Foreword vii
  • Preface ix
  • 1 - The Boston Press, 1690-1735 1
  • 2 - The Philadelphia Press, 1719-1735 51
  • Notes 68
  • 3 - Freedom of the Press, 1638-1735 73
  • Notes 91
  • 4 - The Expansion of the Colonial Press, 1735-1765 97
  • Notes 118
  • 5 - The Stamp Act Crisis, 1765-1766 123
  • Notes 142
  • 6 - The Uneasy Years, 1766-1775 147
  • Notes 165
  • 7 - The Revolutionary Press, 1775-1783 171
  • Notes 192
  • 8 - Reflections on the Early American Press 199
  • Notes 209
  • Bibliographical Essay 211
  • Notes 217
  • Sources 219
  • Index 229
  • About the Authors 235
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