Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The effect of the printing press

There is no doubt that the invention of the printing press changed history in ways that are almost too numerous to comprehend. It happened at just the right time for the Reformation, Renaissance and Humanism to flourish. For hundreds of years the western world was ruled by the horribly corrupt Catholic Church that controlled every part of daily life. The church remained powerful for different reasons but in many ways it was made possible because the majority of the population was illiterate. The printing press changed all if this. Masses of people learned how to read in a very short time. For the first time, people could ready things on their own and interpret information individually. The clergy quickly lost its thumb hold on society.

The printing press required “huge capital investment and [a] large trained labor force.” (p. 81, Meggs) These machines were not built by the monks, but by artisans and craftsmen who lived in the commercial centers of the time. People were coming and going from these areas and that helped news travel fast. Very quickly, leaders of the time recognized the power of this new technology and invited printers to come to their areas of the world and teach people how to print. The power centers shifted from the religious or intellectual to the commercial.

New ideas began to flow freely and the ability to read empowered the people. People could decide things on their own and not be dependent on anyone or any divine power. It’s hard to say if these ideas and social change could have happened without the printed word. It certainly wouldn’t have happened so quickly and spread so far.

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