Information Revolutions in the History of the West

Information Revolutions in the History of the West

Leonard Dudley

With detailed case studies addressing the sources of innovation in information technology, along with a conceptual framework to explain their effects, this book will be of interest to students and teachers of Western economic and social history, as well as to the general reader with an interest in the social impact of innovation.

Chapter 1: Words and the Man

Leonard Dudley

Subjects: economics and finance, economic psychology, innovation and technology, technology and ict


In the mid-eighth century, the medium of communication that had once been used by millions across Western Europe was dying. It was not just the replacement of light, cheap papyrus by heavy, expensive parchment that marked the transition. After a thousand cuts from mutations, each region of the former Roman Empire now had its own version of spoken Latin. Increasingly, travelers from one region had difficulty making themselves understood in other areas. Meanwhile, with the disappearance of lay schools north of the Alps, knowledge of the Romans’ phonetic writing system there was limited to a few thousand priests and monks. The written vocabulary and grammar were also beginning to diverge from classical Latin, although in different ways in each region. Since many monastic houses had their own scripts, even the learned had trouble understanding documents that were exchanged for copying. There were nevertheless some grounds for optimism with regard to the survival of literacy. By the year 780, thanks to the efforts of a gifted tutor, the sounds of the oral Latin of northern Italy had replicated themselves in the brain of the powerful Germanic-speaking king of the Franks. Although Charles himself could not decode the mysterious scratchings of his scribes, he was troubled by the high cost of storing accurately the information required to administer his kingdom. Perhaps the royal power of selection could somehow be used to promote a reform that would make it easier for him and his advisers to recall what had occurred...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.

Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.

Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

Further information