Join getAbstract to access the summary!

The Creation of the Media

Join getAbstract to access the summary!

The Creation of the Media

Political Origins of Modern Communications

Basic Books,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

How politics shaped the media’s history, from written manuscripts to newspapers to modern broadcasting.

auto-generated audio
auto-generated audio

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


International in scope, immensely detailed and authoritative, this study successfully incorporates the evolution of technology, laws, political policy and social development to put the origins of modern media into context. This historical perspective is long overdue. Since media development is actually the story of societal development, author Paul Starr does a tremendous job of detailing the roles of such diverse factors as innovation, invention, patronage, luck, law and competition, all of which shaped the media’s development and helped determine its ultimate societal impact. This book is refreshingly light on political criticism, so each set of facts stands on its own. While Starr occasionally meanders from the main topic, the book’s rich detail shows that he clearly enjoyed his research and writing. getAbstract considers his book essential reading for anyone interested in new and old media and how they were – and are – influenced by their societies.


From Monastery to Profitability

From the beginning of printing in the Western world, around 1450, publishing rapidly expanded from monasteries to stationers who produced and sold hand-copied books in limited quantities. Since Europe’s stationers and printers had increasing commercial incentives to publish and sell books, they sought more titles and distribution channels. As businesses developed a profit motive for expanding the ranks of the reading public, the new print media left the limited distribution of early manuscripts behind and began reaching for larger audiences.

Starting in 1517, the religious conflict fomented by the Protestant Reformation helped the printers’ cause. Reformation leaders relied on the printing press to promulgate their theology, becoming perhaps the first reform movement in history to use print to promote its cause. The Counter-Reformation (starting around 1570) also used print to persuade its followers. Protestants encouraged Bible reading, which helped foster literacy. This accelerated in the 1600s, when Germany’s Petist movement and England’s Puritans promoted daily Bible study.

Traders on early commercial routes carried written...

About the Author

Paul Starr is a professor of sociology at Princeton University and co-editor of The American Prospect. His book The Social Transformation of American Medicine won the 1984 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction and the Bancroft Prize in American History.

Comment on this summary

More on this topic