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The Pamphleteers
The Birth of Journalism

James A. Oliver
Author of The Bering Strait Crossing


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ISBN: 9780955183447 (paperback) ISBN: 9780955183454 (hardback)

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The Pamphleteers is an investigation of the early journalism. In an era long before the advent of the periodical press, the pamphleteers were the world’s proto-journalists.

As a paper platform for a spectrum of religious fanatics, eccentrics, social commentators, and satirists, the pamphlet evolved as a weapon of propaganda (forged between the fledgling press and Star Chamber censorship) for powerful vested interest groups, political parties, governments - and revolutionists.
The Guttenberg revolution of the Renaissance provided the spark and the Reformation of the sixteenth century the explosive fuel for the pamphleteering phenomenon.

As the pamphlet form took root, then so English prose emerged from its antique form with an extraordinary rash of stylistic innovations to embrace such unlikely postures as subversive fulmination, cod polemic, ferocious satire, and manifesto. In times of religious ferment, civil war, colonial unrest and revolution, such texts - risky or even dangerous to publish - were often the product of secret presses and anonymous authors.

At the other exposure, there were those who encountered that risk - and found notoriety or lasting fame along the way. In the hands of a select few, the pamphlet reached a level of high achievement beyond any ordinary Grub Street reckoning. 

As a special focus, the narrative reveals how the early journalists were driven not so much by scandal and sensationalism at home and abroad but by major historical events on the world stage: the Reformation, the English Revolution, the War of the Spanish Succession, and the revolutions in America and in France. Along a mighty timeline, these were the great political tides that led to the birth of journalism, the periodical press, and the emergence of the fourth estate.

In this brief survey, the author also includes vignettes on seven pamphleteers: Robert Greene, Thomas Nashe, Thomas Dekker, John Milton, Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, and culminating with the high achievement of Tom Paine. 

The Pamphleteers is itself a pamphlet for the digital age. 

The Author

James A. Oliver is an international writer, editor, and occasional journalist. He is the author of A Footprint in the Sand, an epic political comedy inspired by a special assignment at the end of the Cold War, and The Anarchist’s Arms - a play set in near-future London.

In 2006, The Bering Strait Crossing: A 21st Century Frontier was published worldwide. In 2007, he was invited to Moscow by the Russian Academy of Scientists to discuss the subject at the inaugural World Link conference. (The concept was later awarded the Grand Prix for innovation at the World Expo in Shanghai.)

From 2007-2009, he lived and worked on the Ile Saint Louis in Paris, where he also developed the script for The Pamphleteers: The Birth of Journalism.

James Oliver is presently based at a remote location for his research on The Strait of Gibraltar: antiquity to the 21st century.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

- timeline -

Robert Greene (1558-1592), author of 'A Groatsworth of Wit' and student of the 'low life' of Elizabethan London Thomas Nash ridiculed Gabriel Harvey (left) in 'Have with You Saffron Walden (1596)John Milton (1608-1674): As propagandist for the Cromwell regime, he was infamous long before he became known as a famous poet. Daniel Defoe (1660-1731):  earlier in his career, the author of Robinson Crusoe had been a hosier (stockings) merchant,  pamphleteer, and influential journalist.   Jonathan Swift (1667-1745):  Dean of Saint Patrick’s, Dublin, and the greatest satirist of the age. In the interval between Tale of a Tub (1704) and Gulliver's Travels (1726), the clergyman had been a highly influential and even notorious pamphleteer. Tom Paine (1737-1809):  an unlikely career as Thetford corset-maker,  for a time seaman in the Seven Years War, Lewes excise man, then propagandist for the revolutions in  American and France. In the wayward tradition of pamphleteering,  The Age of Reason (1794) exploded in his face, and assured his undoing

British Library catalogue

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Author's Ongoing Research Links


COLLECTIONS: I LSE "Out of the Box" pamphlet archives I James Young Simpson Collection I
I Univ. of Liverpool 16th-20th Century pamphlets I Univ. of Southamption 19th Century pamphlets I
REFERENCE (general): Cambridge History of English and American Literature (Pamphleteers) I Elizabethan Authors I
Daniel Defoe: Digital Defoe I Defoe - The Lilley Library Collection I
Swift and Defoe: Virtual Exhibition at Monarsh University Library I
Robert Greene: ArchivesA Groats-worth of Wit (1592) I
John Milton: Archives I
Thomas Nashe: Archives I
Tom Paine: The Tom Paine Project (Lewes)I

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