The History of Communication History

Authored by: Peter Simonson , Janice Peck , Robert T. Craig , John P. Jackson, Jr.

The Handbook of Communication History

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  January  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415892599
eBook ISBN: 9780203149119
Adobe ISBN: 9781136514319


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Communication history is at once a new field and a very old practice. Whether we emphasize the former or the latter depends on how we define “communication history.” On the one hand, if we define it as a fully conceptualized, collectively self-aware field gathered under the sign “communication history,” then we would have to say that it is a formation still coming into being—hope-fully nudged along by this Handbook, which brings together scattered impulses that have been gathering force since the 1970s. On the other hand, we can conceive communication history in more spacious terms, understanding it as written, spoken, or other mediated representations of signifying events and practices in the past. From this perspective, every culture has at least some analogue to communication history—e.g., declarations from the gods or words from the leaders of earlier generations passed down through oral modes and traditions. In traditional societies these acts of remembering were not conceived of as history, nor were the practices understood as “communication,” so the analogy is imperfect. Nonetheless, the scope of communication history potentially reaches out toward the history of humanity writ large.

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