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Prelude to Independence: The Newspaper War on Britain, 1764-1776 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Schlesinger argues persuasively that the Whig newspapers were vitally important in fomenting and sustaining the American Revolution, explaining the papers' reactions to specific events and the shifts in public opinion that resulted. The papers' opposition to British rule started with the Sugar Act but was sustained when the Stamp Act was issued, a law that affected the papers' own business and so strongly motivated the editors and printers to try to stir up opposition. The printers generally (and heroically) ignored the threat of prosecution by the British authorities, and the colonists were surprisingly successful in shaming and intimidating the British authorities into giving up on the few prosecutions they initiated. In these early battles about the right to publish articles critical of Britain, the papers emphasized the freedom of the press, but they had very different conception of that than we do today. The editors felt free to use their papers to harass people who violated the non-importation agreements and others who publicly sided with Britain; they did not feel it necessary to print opposing views; they regularly printed articles under pseudonyms; and they freely printed propaganda. As the conflict continued, the American authorities had no problem taking steps to stop Tory newspapers from publishing. I also was surprised to find that almost none of the papers felt any need to even try to appear unbiased. One thing I found funny was the papers' frequent use of poetry, much of it terrible. I can't see that being very popular today. The book is quite interesting overall. It does seem to be written for more of an academic audience; there are passages where Schlesinger seems to catalog the entire results of his research on a point in a way that might be helpful for someone studying this subject but that detracts from the narrative flow.