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The Telegraph: Radical Transmission in the 1790s


This essay explores how the new technology of the optical telegraph provoked discussion of the possibilities of globalized communication in the 1790s. It focuses on the Telegraph, an anti-ministerial London newspaper. the Telegraph exploits its metaphorical connections with telegraphic technology, boasting of the speed and accuracy of its transmission of news. the Telegraph’s reception from its rival publications perpetuates this metaphorical connection: the ministerial press criticizes the speed of the paper’s transmission of news, as much as the principles it transmits. This essay analyzes the Telegraph’s connections with the London Corresponding Society, and explores the limitations of utopian models of telegraphic communication through the case of reformers exiled to Australia. Despite the practical limitations of telegraphic transmission, the Telegraph demonstrates the potentially transformative political effects of communicative media.

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