History of Media
The development of the printing press in the mid-15th century represented one of the critical milestones in the growth of the media. Johannes Gutenberg, a German citizen, made a significant invention in which he developed a portable metallic printing press. Johannes Gutenberg’s invention had a significant impact on the political and social systems across Europe. By the end of the 15th century, printing presses had become a common aspect in different European countries. The availability of the printing presses altered every aspect of the production of books, printing of Bibles, maps, and other important texts. The introduction of the printing press served as a major trigger for the mass production of printed materials. Many historians have explored the evident effects of the printing press with an emphasis on understanding how the increased availability of information printed in books altered the 15th-century society (Shute, 2017). Many cities in Europe embraced printing and recognized its long-term effects on society. However, Johannes Gutenberg did not register any economic benefits from the innovation that transformed the society immensely. For this reason, the printing press registered political and social impacts that scholars have studied closely. The printing press served as the beginning of print media that would register growth in the years that followed. Both political and social historians have sought to unravel some of the unexplored impacts of the printing press on society. It is apparent that the printing press served as a major revolution that introduced new possibilities that were beyond the imagination of the people at the start of that century. Notably, the printing presses were a characteristic feature of urban cities that were beginning to embrace modernism. The printing press registered remarkable political and social impacts across Europe.
The rising of the printing press served as the beginning of a new platform for political campaigning. Before the development of the printing press, politicians spend a lot of time talking to people to spread their political propaganda (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017). Politicians needed to invest immensely in the development of manifestos and pamphlets that highlighted their main political ideologies. The propaganda campaigns that the politicians conducted sought to persuade members of the public to show their support to the political leaders (Farwell, 2012). However, the printing press altered several aspects of political campaigning. It became easier for the political leaders to print texts that would help the people to interact with their political ideologies and manifestos. However, the people gained more access to different types of texts that empowered them to analyze the manifestos of politicians. The political impacts of the printing press became popular during the German Reformation. Specifically, the German Reformation represented a critical period when members of the public and the political realm staged a rebellion against the hierarchy of the Roman Church (Scialabba, 2013). It was evident that the Roman Church had become extremely corrupt and the politicians rebelled against the negative influence of the church. The rebellion involved a full-blown mass movement in which politicians printed a diverse range of materials to discourage people from supporting the Roman Church. Other political uprisings in the 15th and 16th centuries were because of the significant impacts of the printing press (Shute, 2017). It was easier to spread political ideologies and propaganda because the printing of political materials was cost-effective and took a few days. Through the mass production of political texts, it was possible to influence the people
at a faster rate (Campbell et al., 2017).
The printing press led to a highly effective media campaign that altered the social beliefs of the people. The church held a critical position in the 15th-century European society (Shute, 2017). However, leaders such as Martin Luther had recognized some of the setbacks and false propaganda surrounding Christianity. Martin Luther had a team of allies that were ready to oppose and redefine Christianity. Specifically, the church had controlled the perspectives of the society through the propaganda spread by church leaders (Scialabba, 2013). The society depended on the regular teachings of the church. The people could read for themselves because of the limited number of religious texts. As a result, the church had a firm grip on European society and continuously manipulated the people. Unfortunately, the development of the printing press altered some of these realities. It became easier for people to read the Bible on their own due to the increased availability of multiple Bible copies. Moreover, the people began to read secular texts and developed a sense of resentment towards the church (Scialabba, 2013). The increased availability of information transformed the perspectives of the people, a factor that challenged the existing norms defining social wellbeing. The people were keen to realize that the church had been manipulating them. It was the first time the people experienced the privilege of reading the Bible and other religious texts and embarking on a personal interpretation of religion (Farwell, 2012). For this reason, the printing press served as a major key to religious freedom because the people were free to analyze and interpret religious teachings. The availability of adequate information redefined people’s perception of religion and social wellbeing.
The printing press served as a significant driver in the spread of the Renaissance culture. Notably, the Renaissance culture was one of the most defining movements in European history (Mayhew, 2001). Many scholars have focused on understanding the factors that triggered the influence of the Renaissance culture across Europe. There is evidence that the printing press helped Renaissance artists and writers to print their work and make it available for other European societies. Notably, the increased accessibility to books led to the fast spreading of Renaissance ideals. It became easier for Renaissance scholars to share their ideas and concepts that influenced the development of a highly influential movement (Mayhew, 2001). Many Renaissance scholars and artists relied on their vernacular language to spread their concepts and ideas. Despite the vernacular, a significant increase in learning made the Renaissance culture pronounced across Europe. Many historians believe that the Renaissance culture transformed the European society in unanticipated ways. Specifically, Renaissance artists, scholars, and writers had faced challenges in spreading their ideas before the innovation of the printing press (Mayhew, 2001). Many of the challenges involved the transcription eras, as well as the high cost of paper. The printing press changed the scenario because it made it easier to reproduce different texts. The mass reproduction of texts helped the Renaissance scholars to increase the availability of their work and target a larger audience. As a result, the whole of Europe later experienced the impact of the Renaissance culture. The printing press introduced a platform for different Renaissance scholars to share their ideas with the target audience and transform the European society (Mayhew, 2001). The Renaissance movement introduced a sense of modernity that redefined the people.
In the centuries that followed the invention of the printing press, the European society experienced significant changes brought about by the impact of the printing press. Politicians gained an important tool that they used in promoting their campaigns as highlighted. Social activists and religious critics also gained a platform for expressing their views against the corrupt Roman church. The people gained access to an increased amount of information that empowered them to analyze the political and religious ideologies that had become rampant. On the other hand, the development of the printing press would later trigger the spreading of the Renaissance culture. Other historians have highlighted that the printing press played a key role in the development of the industrial revolution and the commercial industry. These revolutions were dependent on the information spread through the printing press. The mass production of books eventually influenced the availability of information across society. The printing press served to introduce new concepts and to spread ideas and information. The 15th-century European society experienced the first-hand effects of the printing press. Although Johannes Gutenberg did not enjoy any financial benefits for inventing the printing press, his invention remained influential for many centuries. In the modern day, historians give credit to Johannes Gutenberg because his creativity led to the development of the print media. As expected, the growth of the print media registered effects on every other aspect of the society. The people had the freedom to read books and undertake a personal interpretation of the information in the text.
- Campbell, R., Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B. (2017). Media & culture : mass communication in a digital age. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’.
- Farwell, J. P. (2012). Persuasion and power : the art of strategic communication. Washington, DC : Georgetown University Press. Retrieved from https://www.worldcat.org/title/persuasion-and-power-the-art-of-strategic-communication/oclc/1058196700
- Mayhew, R. (2001). Geography, print culture and the Renaissance: “The road less travelled by.” History of European Ideas, 27(4), 349–369. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0191-6599(02)00019-0
- Scialabba, K. F. (2013). The Protestant Reformation and Catholic Publishing: A Framework for Contemporary Understanding. Journal of Religious & Theological Information, 12(3–4), 71–89. https://doi.org/10.1080/10477845.2013.840526
- Shute, R. (2017). Pressed for Space: The Effects of Justification and the Printing Process on Fifteenth-Century Orthography. English Studies, 98(3), 262–282. https://doi.org/10.1080/0013838X.2017.1250197