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Welcome to Episode #181 of That Shakespeare Life, the podcast that takes you behind the curtain and into the life of William Shakespeare.

The rise of the printing press created a precursor to the modern day newspaper, where printed publications like broadsides and pamphlets served to communicate ideas, updates, and notices about new laws, the progress of wars abroad, and even comic stories, true crime tales, and anecdotes. People who deliver letters are referred to in Shakespeare’s plays the “post” and letters are often referred to as “news” with Shakespeare using the word “news” an astonishing 326 times across his works. There’s obviously an overlap between messengers, oral tradition, news, and letters for Shakespeare’s lifetime, but what exactly was the importance of written communication and what should we understand about the system of letter delivery and communication when we see characters named only “messenger” Or “post” appear on Shakespeare’s stage? Did Shakespeare have things like envelopes, stamps, or even a postal address? Here today to take us back to the 16th and early 17th century to explore the role of letters and communication systems in Shakespeare’s lifetime is our guest and author of The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know About Itself, Dr. Andrew Pettegree. 

Join the conversation below.

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Andrew Pettegree, FBA is Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Director of the Universal Short Title Catalogue. He is the author of over a dozen books in the fields of Reformation history and the history of communication including Reformation and the Culture of Persuasion (Cambridge University Press, 2005), The Book in the Renaissance (Yale University Press, 2010), The Invention of News (Yale University Press, 2014), Brand Luther: 1517, Print and the Making of the Reformation (Penguin, 2015) and The Bookshop of the World. Making and Trading Books in the Dutch Golden Age (Yale University Press, 2019), co-authored with Arthur der Weduwen.  The Library, A Fragile History, will be published by Profile on 14 October 2021 (and by Basic books in the USA)

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Books & Resources Recommended by Andrew Pettegree:

Beale, Philip, A history of the post in England from the Romans to the Stuarts (Ashgate: Aldershot, 1998)

Beale, Philip, Adrian Almond and Mike Scott Archer, The Corsini letters (Stroud: Amberley, 2011)  

Adema, Kees, Netherlands Mail in Times of Turmoil. volume I, 1568-1795 (London: Stuart Rossiter Trust, 2010) 

Behringer, Wolfgang, Im Zeichen des Merkur: Reichspost und Kommunikationsrevolution in der Frühen Neuzeit(Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2003)

Behringer, Wolfgang, ‘Communications Revolutions’, German History, 24 (2006), pp. 333-374

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