Jeremy Popkin

Revolutionary News The Press In France, 1789-1799 Publication date : March 17, 2011

Jeremy Popkin is a professor of history at the University of Kentucky and the author of several works in English on the history of the press in France during the revolutionary period.

The French Revolution invented a written press of a radically new type, one that was able to transmit to the French a representation of the upheaval that was taking place and of making them actors of change. Without the newspapers of the time, the taking of the Bastille would have been no more than a minor riot. The revolution in the press is a fundamental aspect of the revolutionary phenomenon. As a vehicle for the words and portrayals that are the very substance of revolutionary politics, the press constitutes the great innovation that distinguishes 1789 from all earlier great crises and points the way to the world of contemporary politics.

During that unique historical moment, the budding era of mass ideologies encountered Gutenberg’s venerable hand press, allowing journalists and publishers like Brissot, Desmoulins, Marat and Hébert not only to publish newspapers that were a direct reflection of their personalities but also to exercise great influence on the world around them. It was this convergence of mass politics and individualised journalism that turned the revolutionary decade into an unequalled chapter in the history of the media.