Communication and Empire

Media, Markets, and Globalization, 1860–1930

Communication and Empire

American Encounters/Global Interactions

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Book Pages: 456 Illustrations: 25 illustrations, 13 tables, 10 maps Published: July 2007

Globalization and Neoliberalism, History > World History, Media Studies > Communication

Filling in a key chapter in communications history, Dwayne R. Winseck and Robert M. Pike offer an in-depth examination of the rise of the “global media” between 1860 and 1930. They analyze the connections between the development of a global communication infrastructure, the creation of national telegraph and wireless systems, and news agencies and the content they provided. Conventional histories suggest that the growth of global communications correlated with imperial expansion: an increasing number of cables were laid as colonial powers competed for control of resources. Winseck and Pike argue that the role of the imperial contest, while significant, has been exaggerated. They emphasize how much of the global media system was in place before the high tide of imperialism in the early twentieth century, and they point to other factors that drove the proliferation of global media links, including economic booms and busts, initial steps toward multilateralism and international law, and the formation of corporate cartels.

Drawing on extensive research in corporate and government archives, Winseck and Pike illuminate the actions of companies and cartels during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth, in many different parts of the globe, including Africa, Asia, and Central and South America as well as Europe and North America. The complex history they relate shows how cable companies exploited or transcended national policies in the creation of the global cable network, how private corporations and government agencies interacted, and how individual reformers fought to eliminate cartels and harmonize the regulation of world communications. In Communication and Empire, the multinational conglomerates, regulations, and the politics of imperialism and anti-imperialism as well as the cries for reform of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth emerge as the obvious forerunners of today’s global media.


“Winseck and Pike’s rendering of the deals and fights of business networks is a significant contribution to our understanding of how globalization works, one that will be of interest to economic sociologists and communications and globalization scholars alike.” — Alex Preda, American Journal of Sociology

Communication and Empire offers a noteworthy overview of the development of global communications systems prior to the Great Depression. . . . A groundbreaking analysis of the connections between private communications firms and broader issues of global development.” — Benjamin Schwantes, Enterprise & Society

Communication and Empire presents a richly detailed picture of the early history of global electronic communications networks. . . . [It is] valuable to historians of technology for its portrayal of the complex interplay of technology, business, and diplomacy that generated the modern global communications systems. . . . It will also appeal to those interested in the ongoing development of global communications and the development of large technological, political, and economic systems more generally.” — Elizabeth Yale, Technology and Culture

“[T]he great strength of this book is its exacting elaboration of so many additional vectors, which together comprise first-wave globalization of instructive complexity. If the core of the book is a global industry history that joins hardware (the cables) and ‘content’ (the wire services), the book is also attentive to political and diplomatic history. Readers will no doubt see striking parallels—even continuities—between the global media system that Winseck and Pike describe and the one we know today.” — Lisa Gitelman, American Historical Review

“An impressive historical study. . . . Highly recommended.” — C. Sterling, Choice

“In a richly layered and complex history that spans developments in all of the inhabited continents, Winseck and Pike present a compelling case for tracing the advent of ‘deep and durable’ globalization back to the advent of a worldwide network of cable and telegraph systems in the 1860s.” — Marnie Hughes-Warrington, World History Connected

“The depth [of] research is staggering: the footnotes groan with citations of memos between the major telegraph companies, and the scope and detail of the narrative is formidable. Winseck and Pike have written a book that liberates communications technology from simplistic political explanations.” — Tim Roberts, M/C Reviews

“This is a beautifully designed and exceptionally well-researched book on the early history of intercontinental cable and wireless communication.” — Richard Maxwell, Canadian Journal of Sociology

“This is a work of immense scholarship, describing the development of global electronic communication from its beginnings in the nineteenth century until the inter-war period. . . . In the arguments that will continue. . . Winseck and Pike’s research will be crucial evidence.” — Jock Given, Media International Australia

“This work . . . has relevance not just for media studies, but also for economic, imperial and global historians.” — Emma Robertson, European Journal of Communication

“Winseck and Pike provide fresh perspectives on the historical development of a global media system from the period 1860 to 1930. . . . Sections on the emerging telegraph markets pertaining to India, Egypt, and South America, and the intrigues and political rivalries among the dominant players, not only make for some absorbing reading, but also extend our theoretical understanding.” — Sanjay Asthana, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator

“With skill and diligence, the authors have dissected the often bewilderingly dense and purposefully obscure corporate structures of the period. Similarly impressive is the global scope of their ambition, particularly their desire to unpick telegraph and cable developments in South America, China and the Middle East.” — Simon J. Potter, Media, Culture & Society

“I know of no other recent work that comes close to this one in sweep, detail, and complexity, yet is so compellingly relevant to our present times. Dwayne R. Winseck and Robert M. Pike have done a masterful job unraveling a tortuously complex and fragmented narrative of the rivalries, alliances, ambitions, and subterfuges in which the cable companies of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries engaged.” — Oliver Boyd-Barrett, editor of Communications Media, Globalization, and Empire

“The central arguments of Communication and Empire—that the ‘empire of capital’ is not coterminous with imperialism, and that many of the central features of the contemporary global communications system have their roots in the period of global commercial expansion before the high tide of imperialism—are both important and timely, and are supported with a wealth of original firsthand empirical material.” — Graham Murdock, editor of The Political Economy of the Media


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Dwayne R. Winseck is Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University. He is the author of Reconvergence: A Political Economy of Telecommunications in Canada and a coeditor of Democratizing Communication? Comparative Perspectives on Information and Power and Media in Global Context.

Robert M. Pike is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He is the author of many articles on the history of communications.

Table of Contents Back to Top
About the Series ix

Illustrations xi

Tables xiii

Preface and Acknowledgments xv

Introduction: Deep Globalization and the Global Media in the Late Nineteenth Century and Early Twentieth 1

1. Building the Global Communication Infrastructure: Brakes and Accelerators on New Communication Technologies, 1850-70 16

2. From the gilded Age to the Progressive Era: The Struggle for Control in the Euro-America and South American Communication Markets, 1870-1905 43

3. Indo-European Communication Markets and the Scrambling of Africa: Communication and Empire in the “Age of Disorder” 92

4. Electronic Kingdom and Wired Cities in the “Age of Disorder”: The Struggle for Control of China’s National and Global Communication Capabilities, 1870-1901 113

5. The Politics of Global Media Reform I, 1870-1905: The Early Movements against Private Cable Monopolies 142

6. The Politics of global Media Reform II, 1906-16: Rivalry and Managed Competition in the Age of Empire(s) and Social Reform 177

7. Wireless, War, and Communication Networks, 1914-22 228
Thick and Thin Globalism: Wilson, the Communication Experts, and the American Approach to Global Communication, 1918-22 257

9. Communication and Informal Empires: Consortia and the Evolution of South American and Asian Communication Markets, 1918-30 277

10. The Euro-American Communication Market and Media Merger Mania: New Technology and the Political Economy of Communication in the 1920s 304

Conclusions: The Moving Forces of the Early Global Media 338

Notes 347

Bibliography 370

Index 403
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3928-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3912-0
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