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 3: The Counter-Attack of the Clones

Leonard Dudley

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

Extract

Across Western Europe by the mid-fifteenth century, thanks to the reforms initiated by the Anglo-Saxon churchman, Alcuin, both religious and secular literate elites were able to communicate in standardized Medieval Latin. However, this synthetic language, the mother tongue of no one, was too difficult to learn for the great majority of people. With only a thin layer of the population able to decipher written documents, the decoding of information had become expensive relative to the cost of storing it. The solution was obvious, namely, to start publishing written communication in the vernacular tongues. However, since each region had its own dialect, there were not yet enough people able to read and write in any one spoken language to constitute a market for expensive manuscripts in the vernacular. The catch was that until someone discovered a way to teach literacy to a mass audience, such a market would never come into being. THE CARDINAL AND THE COIN-MAKER’S SON The Turks are coming! In the spring of 1450, the Vatican officials could talk of little else. Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, 49, was not surprised to learn the contents of the letter sent to Rome by the Latin ruler of Cyprus. The Catholic king of the small eastern-Mediterranean island was requesting urgent help in order to defend his realm against the Muslim threat. On the continent, Turkish armies now roamed at will around the great walls of Constantinople, the Byzantine port that controlled traffic between the Black Sea and...

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