Thursday, July 18, 2019

Joseph M. Adelman's "Revolutionary Networks"

Joseph M. Adelman is an Assistant Professor in the History Department at Framingham State University in Framingham, Massachusetts.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Revolutionary Networks: The Business and Politics of Printing the News, 1763–1789, and reported the following:
A section break sits in the middle of page 99 of Revolutionary Networks; reading the conclusion of one section and the introduction of another, it turns out, is an awkward way to represent the argument of a book. Nonetheless, it actually provides a decent window into what I aim to accomplish in Revolutionary Networks. The page begins with the conclusion of a section on the interaction between newspaper printers and the Boston Committee of Correspondence, an extralegal organization formed in 1772 to circulate news and information about anti-imperial efforts in the colonies. For obvious reasons, the Committee wanted to enlist the help of Boston printers to circulate their letters and arguments in print (especially their newspapers), but printers balked because committee members sent dozens of requests for printers to publish notices for free. Though many of them had political beliefs that roughly aligned with those of the Committee, they stood up to the Committee and refused to print the letters unless the Committee subsidized their publication.

Members of the committee also tried to build networks beyond Boston, which is where we find them at work on page 99. As they received correspondence from towns around the colonies, they would forward those letters back to newspaper printers in the area from which they came to be reprinted:
For instance, the committee ordered that a copy of resolves from the town of Ashford, Connecticut, offering support for Boston during the Port Act crisis, be delivered “to the Printer of the New London Gazette, desiring him To Print the same.” Along the same lines, Samuel Adams struck up a correspondence with Charleston printer Peter Timothy in the early 1770s and continued the connection after the Tea Act crisis, when Timothy had become secretary to the Charleston Committee of Correspondence.
The final part of page 99 opens a new section on how newspaper printers, the Boston Committee of Correspondence, and others mobilized the pathways they had developed (and which I outline in Revolutionary Networks) to generate opposition to the 1773 Tea Act and then circulate news about the Boston Tea Party. Their efforts form part of the larger story of Revolutionary Networks, in which colonial printers—men and women who were middling artisans rather than elite members of society—shaped the political arguments and actions of the American Revolution through the prism of their commercial interests.
Visit Joseph M. Adelman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue