How Communication Protocols Catalyzed Revolution in British America

Wed October 28th 2015, 5:00 - 6:30pm
Event Sponsor
Seminar on Enlightenment and Revolution 1660–1830, a Stanford Humanities Center Research Workshop in Honor of John Bender
Terrace Room, Margaret Jacks Hall, Room 426
How Communication Protocols Catalyzed Revolution in British America

Presenter: William Warner is Professor of English at UC Santa Barbara. His research and teaching focuses on the long history of mediation, from 18th-century print culture and 20th-century media. His work in the 18th century has focused upon understanding how the novel emerged, over the course of the 18th century, as the dominant form of print entertainment: Licensing Entertainment: The Elevation of Novel Reading in Britain, 1684-1750 (UC Press, 1998); and on the media history of Enlightenment: with Clifford Siskin he is editor of This is Enlightenment Chicago, 2010). More recently he has published Protocols of Liberty: Communication Innovation and the American Revolution (Chicago, 2013), winner of the 2014 Gottschalk Prize, given by American Society for Eighteenth Century. Most recently he has turned his attention to exploring the relationship between reality and the novel.

Description: While scholars have long told the story of the American Revolution as founders’ narratives, people’s histories or intellectual history, this book links revolution to the communication innovations of the Whigs of British America: the committee of correspondence, the popular declaration, and the network. The reading for the seminar focuses on the communication dynamic begun by a modest pamphlet published by the Boston Committee of Correspondence in November of 1772 to state the rights and grievances of the colony. It catalyzed the formation of a network of Whigs throughout Massachusetts, that later spread to other American colonies. Crucial to the formation of this network was the acceptance of a common set of communication protocols: legal procedure, collective action, public access, a systematic and general address to the people, and virtuous initiative. The protocols are still fundamental to the efficacy of democratic political action, in the United States and many other countries.