restricted access Empire and Communications by H. A. Innis (review)
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322 THE CANADIAN HISTORICAL REVIEW Empire and Communications.By H. A. INN•S. Oxford: At the Clarendon Press [Toronto: OxfordUniversity Press]. 1950. Pp. 230. ($3.25) T•s bookis very interestingand very valuable. Its purposeis to suggest"the significance of communication to moderncivilization." It analysesthd continual conflictbetweenthe oral tradition and the written word. Consequently,the term "communication"in this book doesnot mean suchphysicalavenuesof communicationasroadsandrivers ,whichhavebeenconsidered by otherwritersasthe chief sources of civilization. Innisexamines the pertinent factsrelating to themainempires, beginning with Egypt, continuingwith Babylonia, Greece,and Rome, and comingdown to our modernworld. He tracesthe evolutionof the written word from clay tablets, papyrus,thenparchment,endingwith paper. The purpose isto showthe influence of thesevariousmeansof communication onthe origin,progress, anddecadence of various empires. This is onemoremeansof cutting a cross-section throughthe many strata of civilization. The man who undertakessuchresearchwork is bound to neglect other factorsand to emphasizehis own approach. The specialistwill be able to put the author'sfindingsin their properperspective;the layman couldhardly do so. The book seemsto have beenwritten for the specialist; it is very much condensedand sometimesit is hard to find the thread connectingtwo successive paragraphsor sentences. Another difficulty is the frequent use of the adverbs "probably," "possibly,""apparently." Of course,the specialist will seein thesea starting-point for further research,but the layman may think they impair the solidity of the argument. One may questionthe measureof influencesaidto be exertedby new ideas appearing in the ancientworld,and the amountof time requiredfor suchideasto penetratethe majority of a givenpeople. Today we havean abundanceof means of communication:books,tracts,magazines, newspapers, radio,schools, meetings; yet it takesmany yearsbeforea newideacangetinto the mindsof the people. In the ancientworld it must have beena much longertime. Theseremarks,or rather questionmarks, do not in any way affect the value of the book,whichremainsa soundcontributionto the history of civilization. It isto behopedthat theauthorwill continuehisresearches andwill in time produce a largerbook,whicheventhe laymanwill be ableto read,digest,and assimilate. ARTHUR MAItEUX Laval University. Hawkins of Plymouth:A New History of Sir JohnHawkins and of OtherMembers of his Family Prominent in Tudor England. By JA•aESA. WmL•A•SO•. London: Adam and Charles Black [Toronto: Macmillan Co. of Canada]. 1949. Pp. xi, 348. ($5.25) DR. W•LL•A•SONhas written a secondbook about Sir John Hawkins in order to includenew material from Spanishand Mexican archiveswhichwas not available when he wrote the first one in 1927 but which has sincebeen publishedby the Hakluyt Societyor made available to him in manuscript. The chief effect of the Spanishrecordsis to substantiatethe view which Dr. Williamson put forward in oppositionto Froude, namely that Hawkins was at least as noble a character as any who lived in his ageand was better than mostof his contemporaries.A1- ...