Jack Censer's achievement in "The French Press in the Age of Enlightenment" is to marshal a vast literature in order to provide a coherent and original interpretation of the role of the French press in the dissemination of social and political ideas in the pre-revolution years. With 1,000 titles and thousands of journalists, the periodical constituted an important phenomenon in French intellectual life; yet scholars in the absence of a synthetic treatment have failed to integrate it into their accounts. This study allows construction of a far richer picture of the politics and intellectual life of the period, and counters the standard view of the Old Regime political system as already fatally undermined well before the revolution.
The first half of the book considers the message in the political press, literary and philosophical journals, and local advertisers, while the remainder analyzes readers and reading, the role of government, and the personnel of the press. These subjects contribute to a number of different historical debates, including current discussions of the identity and the role of readers. This book gives a strikingly new historical analysis of the period immediately before 1789.
`Censer's book is a felicitous blend of comprehensive reading of secondary sources and his own research. ... Blending perceptive synthesis and original research, The French Press in the Age of the Enlightenment will instruct and challenge readers for many years to come.' - Harvey Chisick Haifa University