CUDAN@ 9th ESPRit Conference Periodical Formats in the Market: Economies of Space and Time, Competition and Transfer

When: 2021-06-14 18:00-18:45 (Tallinn time)
Where: The event is public via zoom (online)


Abstract – Mila Oiva (CUDAN Senior Research Fellow), Jana Keck (Research Fellow in Digital History, German Historical Institute in Washington DC), and Paul Fyfe (Associate Professor of English, North Carolina State University) will talk about their research titled “Lajos Kossuth and News Transfer in the International Press System”.

Connected by telegraph wires, letters, railways, steamships, exchange networks, and extensive reprinting practices, newspapers by the mid-nineteenth century seemed to increasingly function as part of the infrastructure of globalization and/or as a distributed information network. Yet scholars of new imperial history have resisted presentist metaphors like “network,” preferring studies of the limiting conditions of the nineteenth-century press. For instance, Simon Potter proposes the concept of an “imperial press system” to better account for its asymmetrical coverage, hierarchies of power, and material infrastructure. This paper emerges from a larger project called Oceanic Exchanges that tries—through computational and comparative methods—to engage nineteenth-century newspapers as an international system, while also elucidating the particular conditions and structures of power that governed it. This paper offers a glimpse of this “international press system,” as we might call it, in the case of the Hungarian revolutionary Lajos Kossuth (1802-1894).

In December of 1851, Kossuth traveled through Europe to the United States on a publicity campaign to secure support for Hungarian independence. His voyage down the eastern seaboard, ultimately arriving in Washington, DC, was exhaustively covered by not only the American press but by an increasingly connected system of international newspapers. Newspapers stirred the crowds that flocked to his speeches, inspired far-flung editors to adapt Kossuth’s messages, and allowed Hungarian political operatives to discredit Kossuth and manipulate the news network itself. Kossuth judged his mission a failure (the US declined to get involved), but we suggest that the significance of his trip lies elsewhere. His case study offers an interesting view on the complexities of a globalizing information system, as news propagated through press connections, and different interpretations of the events competed with and complemented each other, locally, regionally, and internationally.

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