Writing Media History

Research output: Contribution to journalBook/Film/Article review

Abstract

Discussing the problem of anachronism in the writing of media history, Joad Raymond, an eminent historian of 16th and 17th century print culture, worries about his use of the word ‘propaganda’—the word ‘slips easily’ from his pen, he says, ‘yet immediately stimulates anxieties about misrepresentation’ (2005, p. 7). The problem is that, in early modern Britain, there was ‘no notion directly equivalent to the modern concept of propaganda’. The word only entered the English language in the early 19th century. Before then, ‘propaganda’ mostly appeared in Latin. When it appeared in English texts it referred specifically to the propagation of Roman Catholic teachings and was commonly italicised to indicate that it was a foreign term. When applying it to 16th and 17th century communication practices more generally, authors needed to recognise that they were using a word that was not available to contemporaries and so could fit only imperfectly the categories (for example, ‘polemic’, ‘news’, ‘intelligence’, ‘opinion’) that were then available. Raymond does not rule out using the term. ‘It is worth considering’, he writes, ‘the ways in which propaganda might be a useful term in characterizing aspects of seventeenth-century political culture’ (2005, pp. 4–5). But he proceeds with great care, conscious that the usefulness of the term has to be critically assessed rather than assumed
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
JournalAustralian Review of Public Affairs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2015

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