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The Information Revolution in Early Modern Europe
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  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Expected online publication date: August 2021
  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online ISBN: 9781316556177
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Book description

This provocative new history of early modern Europe argues that changes in the generation, preservation and circulation of information, chiefly on newly available and affordable paper, constituted an 'information revolution'. In commerce, finance, statecraft, scholarly life, science, and communication, early modern Europeans were compelled to place a new premium on information management. These developments had a profound and transformative impact on European life. The huge expansion in paper records and the accompanying efforts to store, share, organize and taxonomize them are intertwined with many of the essential developments in the early modern period, including the rise of the state, the Print Revolution, the Scientific Revolution, and the Republic of Letters. Engaging with historical questions across many fields of human activity, Paul M. Dover interprets the historical significance of this 'information revolution' for the present day, and suggests thought-provoking parallels with the informational challenges of the digital age.


‘This engaging synthesis tracks an ‘information revolution’ across early modern European culture, from commerce and politics to many fields of learning and genres of personal writing. More than printing it was paper that fuelled both the explosion of information and many practices of managing it that have proved remarkably enduring.’

Ann Blair - Harvard University

‘Words and numbers, scrawled by ink-black fingers on the milled remains of rags, became a promise never quite fulfilled: to forget nothing and to make rational decisions based on ‘information.’ Paul Dover’s entertaining book shows how necessary it is to understand this history.’

Arndt Brendecke - Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

‘Dover brings together a dizzying array of recent scholarship on information in early Europe - from the business of paper mills to scientists’ data collection, from dusty state archives to flaming pamphlet wars. His analysis of information revolution during the age of paper offers insights for the present on every page.’

Randolph C. Head - University of California, Riverside

‘Paul Dover’s brilliant and erudite book traces the origins of our modern information society, and how it grew in a world of scholars, administrators, lawyers, merchants, and archivists. Before computers, there was a revolution in the uses of paper, and, with all its glory and pitfalls, Dover shows how it worked and created the foundations of our own very complicated modern information world. His learned and entertaining work is a must read for all those interested in information, computing, the news, and the history of communication.’

Jacob Soll - University of Southern California


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