by Nicholas Popper
University of Chicago Press, 2024
Cloth: 978-0-226-82595-3 | eISBN: 978-0-226-82596-0 | Paper: 978-0-226-82597-7
Library of Congress Classification JN329.P75P67 2024
Dewey Decimal Classification 352.387094109032

An exploration of the proliferation of paper in early modern Britain and its far-reaching effects on politics and society.
We are used to thinking of ourselves as living in a time when more information is more available than ever before. In The Specter of the Archive, Nicholas Popper shows that earlier eras had to grapple with the same problem—how to deal with too much information at their fingertips.
He reveals that early modern Britain was a society newly drowning in paper, a light and durable technology whose spread allowed statesmen to record drafts, memoranda, and other ephemera that might otherwise have been lost, and also made it possible for ordinary people to collect political texts. As original paperwork and copies alike flooded the government, information management became the core of politics. Focusing on two of the primary political archives of early modern England, the Tower of London Record Office and the State Paper Office, Popper traces the circulation of their materials through the government and the broader public sphere. In this early media-saturated society, we find the origins of many issues we face today: Who shapes the archive? Can we trust the pictures of the past and the present that it shows us? And, in a more politically urgent vein: Does a huge volume of widely available information (not all of it accurate) risk contributing to polarization and extremism?

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