‘Written according to my usual way’
Political communication and the rise of the agent in seventeenth-century England
in Connecting centre and locality
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The historiography regarding communicative practices in the early modern period tends to involve overly neat trajectories, which map the supplanting of sociable networks by commercial relationships, and trace the decline of scribal culture in the face of a print revolution. At the very least, it has been possible to argue that print became a central mechanism for connecting centre and locality. Of course, scholars continue to debate how best to assess the relative importance of scribal and print genres, as well as the impact of the commercial revolution. What this chapter seeks to argue, however, is that there are other much less well recognised ways of challenging such Whiggish narratives, by questioning the degree to which print was an accessible and unmediated method for obtaining ideas and information, and by recognising the obstacles which continued to undermine the accessibility of print. As such, any appreciation of the significance of the ‘print revolution’ needs to investigate how these obstacles were overcome, and this chapter seeks to highlight the central importance of the professional agent in facilitating a shift from sociable scribal networks to a commercial culture of print, while at the same time making such a change seem much less stark.

Connecting centre and locality

Political communication in early modern England

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