CBSE NCERT Class X (10th) | Social Studies | History

Chapter - 7 Print Culture and Modern World

The Advent of Print Technology

In the last phase of the 19th century, Indian markets were flooded by goods from Britain. British manufacturers used effective advertisements to create a positive image of their product and boost sales.
Early Manchester labels showed many Indian Gods and Goddesses to create respect and approval for the product. The advertisements by Indian manufacturers were very nationalistic upholding the idea of Swadeshi.

During Swadeshi movement in the 20th century the industrial groups pressurized the government to increase tariff protection and grant them other concessions.

From 1906 the export of Indian yarn to China declined because of new players in the Chinese market. The beginning of the First World War brought a dramatic turn to industrialisation in India. The supply of Manchester goods declined as the English mills got busy in producing goods for the war. This provided opportunity to the Indian Mill owners to capture the domestic market. Indian industries were also used to supply items for the British army in war later.

After the war, British economy could not compete with new players US, Japan and Germany and collapsed. Manchester could not regain its position in the Indian market either. The handloom cloth production increased in the 20th century due to the use of looms with fly shuttle. The weavers learnt to handle competition from the mills. After World War I, many factories grew in India but the maximum labour force worked out of small household units in the villages.

Print Revolution and Its Impact

People used the print technology to freely spread their ideas which put fear on those in authority. Print could greatly affect the minds of people and influence them leading to debates and discussions. One such religious debate in 1517, by Martin Luther led to the division of the Roman Catholic church and the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in Europe.

To prevent rise of rebellious ideas, the Roman Church imposed certain limitations on publishers and booksellers and began to maintain an Index of Prohibited Books from 1558.

By the end of the 18th century, some parts of Europe had a high literacy rate. Peasants and artisans too could read. In England, travelling pedlars known as chapmen sold pocket sized books or chapbooks for a penny and so were commonly called penny chapbooks whereas in France, inexpensive books called ‘Biliotheque Bleue’ were sold to the poor. Scientists like Isaac Newton and philosophers like Thomas Paine, Voltaire started publishing their discoveries and ideas.

In 18th century, people believed that books had the power to liberate society from despotism or absolute power. All these ideas from print paved way to debates and discussions and made people question the existing ideas and beliefs. This spread hostile sentiments against the monarchy.

Changes in the Nineteenth Century

Print culture saw several changes in the 19th century. With a high literacy rate, a large number of children, women and workers became a part of the reading culture. School textbooks and reading material like folk and fairy tales for children formed a major part of the publishing industry. Grimm’s Fairy Tales, a popular collection of German folktales was published in this period.

In 1857, a press was set up in France that printed books only for children. Women also showed a huge interest in literature and apart from reading they also took up writing. Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and Mary Ann Evans were some of the best known female novelists.

Their writings defined the new woman as a person with strength, personality, intelligence and determination.

Lending libraries also became a means of educating people of the lower middle class. Printers and publishers came up with new strategies to sell their products. They started publishing serialised novels, advertisements and notices were printed and pasted on common places to attract buyers. There were also series of innovations in the printing technology.

By mid-19th century, Richard M. Hoe of New York developed a cylindrical press which operated on electricity. It could print 8,000 sheets per hour and was useful for printing newspapers.

India and the World of Print

In the mid-16th century printing press was introduced to India by the Portuguese missionaries. Towards the end of 18th century, a number of newspapers and journals were printed. Gangadhar Bhattacharya’s Bengal Gazette was the first newspaper to be started by an Indian. Print and newspapers became a useful medium to convey views.

Later, several religious texts were published in portable form which increased the readership of these texts. Growing reading culture resulted in people wanting to read novels, stories, poems and social and political issues.

When visuals also became a part of the print culture painters like Raja Ravi Varma provided their artwork for circulation. Caricatures and cartoons were also published which depicted the social and political issues of the society.

Women became an important part of the print culture. Several women writers wrote passionately about women’s lives and their emotions. These included Kailashbashini Debi, Tarabai Shinde, Pandita Ramabai.
Reading and print culture spread rapidly in India. Battala, a place in Calcutta was devoted entirely to the printing of popular books. Public libraries were established in towns, cities and a few prosperous villages making books more accessible. Jyotiba Phule, wrote about the injustices of the caste system in his book Gulamgiri. The millworkers of Bangalore cotton also set up libraries to educate themselves.

Print and Censorship

Print had a huge impact on its readers and hence the East India Company wanted to restrict the publications.

In the 1820s, the Calcutta Supreme Court passed certain regulations to control press freedom. After the revolt of 1857, the Englishmen demanded to clamp the local press and wanted to control the spread of nationalism.

The Vernacular Press Act which was passed in 1878 gave the government right to censor reports and editorials in the vernacular press.

In spite of these controls, the number of nationalist newspapers increased throughout the India. When Company attempted to suppress any nationalist expression, militant protests were launched. Print culture became one of the major driving forces behind the Indian freedom struggle.

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