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During the American Revolution, printed material, including newspapers, pamphlets, almanacs, and broadsides, played a crucial role as a forum for public debate. In Revolutionary Networks, Joseph M. Adelman argues that printersâ€”artisans who mingled with the elite but labored in a manual tradeâ€”used their commercial and political connections to directly shape Revolutionary political ideology and mass mobilization. Going into the printing offices of colonial America to explore how these documents were produced, Adelman shows how printers balanced their own political beliefs and interests alongside the commercial interests of their businesses, the customs of the printing trade, and the prevailing mood of their communities.
Adelman describes how these laborers repackaged oral and manuscript compositions into printed works through which political news and opinion circulated. Drawing on a database of 756 printers active during the Revolutionary era, along with a rich collection of archival and printed sources, Adelman surveys printers’ editorial strategies. Moving chronologically through the era of the American Revolution and to the war’s aftermath, he details the development of the networks of printers and explains how they contributed to the process of creating first a revolution and then the new nation.
By underscoring the important and intertwined roles of commercial and political interests in the development of Revolutionary rhetoric, this book essentially reframes our understanding of the American Revolution. Printers, Adelman argues, played a major role as mediators who determined what rhetoric to amplify and where to circulate it. Offering a unique perspective on the American Revolution and early American print culture, Revolutionary Networks reveals how these men and women managed political upheaval through a commercial lens.