The Invisible Weapon: Telecommunications and International Politics, 1851-1945 [NOOK Book]


A vital instrument of power, telecommunications is and has always been a political technology. In this book, Headrick examines the political history of telecommunications from the mid-nineteenth century to the end of World War II. He argues that this technology gave society new options. In times of peace, the telegraph and radio were, as many predicted, instruments of peace; in times of tension, they became instruments of politics, tools for rival interests, and weapons of war. Writing in a lively, accessible ...
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The Invisible Weapon: Telecommunications and International Politics, 1851-1945

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A vital instrument of power, telecommunications is and has always been a political technology. In this book, Headrick examines the political history of telecommunications from the mid-nineteenth century to the end of World War II. He argues that this technology gave society new options. In times of peace, the telegraph and radio were, as many predicted, instruments of peace; in times of tension, they became instruments of politics, tools for rival interests, and weapons of war. Writing in a lively, accessible style, Headrick illuminates the political aspects of information technology, showing how in both World Wars, the use of radio led to a shadowy war of disinformation, cryptography, and communications intelligence, with decisive consequences.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A mine of useful information for communication researchers....The data presented here represent a major contribution to the field and will be of immense value to scholars interested in the historical linkages between mass media and communication technology."— ournal of Communication

"This is a well-balanced book that presents the growth of telecommunications techologies within a global context."—Journal of World History

"Headrick's broad-ranging study of the connections between international communications and world politics from the rise of the submarine cable to the end of World War II makes a major contribution."—Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"The value of Headrick's book to communication historians is primarily in its compilation of a wealth of examples and minute details about Western cable development and politics the world over.... A good resource for anyone interested in the early global development of telecommunications."—Journalism History

"With The Invisible Weapon Daniel Headrick puts the capstone on a decade of solid research centered on technology and global politics during the nineteenth and twentieth century....A work that furture historians will turn to repeatedly as the study of information and communications takes on increasing intellectual and social importance."—Business History Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199996322
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/28/1991
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Daniel R. Headrick is Professor Emeritus of Social Science and History at Roosevelt University and author of numerous books on world history, including Power over Peoples: Technology, Environments, and Western Imperialism, 1400 to the Present, Technology: A World History (OUP, 2009), When Information Came of Age (OUP, 2000), The Tentacles of Progress (OUP, 1988), and The Tools of Empire (OUP, 1981).

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Table of Contents


1 Telecommunications and International Relations
Characteristics of Electrical Communications
Telecommunications and World History
International Telecommunications as a Field of Study

2 New Technology
Origins of the Telegraph
International Telegraphic Cooperation
The First Submarine Telegraph Cables
The Mediterranean Cables
The First Atlantic Cables
The Red Sea Cable
Telegraphs to India

3 The Expansion of the World Cable Network, 1866-1895
The Technology of Cables
The Atlantic Cables
The Cable Companies
Cables to India and Australia
Cable Rivalries in the West Indies and Latin America
Across Russia to Japan
Commercial Codes and the International Telegraph Union

4 Telegraphy and Imperialism in the Late Nineteenth Century
The Telegraph in India
The Telegraph in Indochina
Cables and News in the French West Indies
The Telegraph in China
The East African Cables
The West African Cables
Cables and Colonial Control

5 Crisis at the Turn of the Century, 1895-1901
Telegraphy and Diplomacy
British Cable Strategy to 1898
Telegraphic Delays and French Imperialism
Germany and the Azores Affair
The Spanish-American War
The Fashoda Incident
The British Strategic Cable Report of 1898
The Boer War

6 The Great Powers and the Cable Crisis, 1900-1913
The British Pacific Cable and the "All-Red" Routes
British Cable Strategy, 1902-1914
The American Cables
France and the Cable Crisis
Germany and the Cable Crisis

7 The Beginnings of Radio, 1895-1914
Marconi and the Birth of Wireless Telegraphy
The Marconi Monopoly and the Reaction of the Powers
Technological Change and Commercial Rivalries
The U.S. Navy and Radio to 1908
The Continuous Ware, 1908-1914
French Colonial Wireless
German Long-Distance and Colonial Radio
The British Imperial Wireless Chain

8 Cables and Radio in World War I
The Jitters of July 1914
Allied Attacks on German Communications
German Attacks on Allied Communications
Allied Communications during the War

9 Communications Intelligence in World War I
Government Cryptology before 1914
Communications Intelligence on Land
British Naval Interception and Direction-Finding
German Codes and British Cryptanalysis in 1914
British Naval Intelligence, 1915-1916
The U-Boat War, 1917-1918
German Communications Intelligence
The Zimmerman Telegram

10 Conflicts and Settlements, 1919-1923
The Paris Peace Conference of 1919
The Washington Conferences of 1920-1922
The Struggle over Cables to Latin America
The Radio Corporation of America
British Radio, 1919~1924
German and French Radio to 1924
Radio in Latin America and China

11 Technological Upheavals and Commercial Rivalries, 1924-1939
The Distribution of Cables in the World in 1923
Cable Technology in the 1920s
The New Cables, 1924-1929
ITT and the Telephones
The British Reaction
French Colonial Shortwave
The International Impact of Shortwave
The British Communications Merger
Responses to the British Merger
The British Dilemma: Profits versus Security

12 Communications Intelligence in World War II
British and German Communications Intelligence to 1936
Cipher Machines
The Approach of War, 1936-1939
The Outbreak of War, 1939-1940
British Communications Intelligence in Wartime
German Communications Intelligence in Wartime
The Battles of Britain and North Africa
German Spies and Allied Radio Deception
Funkspiele, Resistance, and the Normandy Landing
The Soviet Rings

13 The War at Sea
The Cable War
Communications and Naval Warfare in the Atlantic
The Battle of the Atlantic, 1939-1944
American Communications Intelligence before Pearl Harbor
From Pearl Harbor to Midway
After Midway

14 The Changing of the Guard
The American Expansion
Strategic Cables to North Africa and Europe
The Retreat of Britain
The Organization of Postwar Communications

15 Telecommunications, Information, and Security

Bibliography Essay
Books on Submarine Telegraph Cables
Books on Radio and Telecommunications
Communications Intelligence
Primary Sources


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