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4: History of Communication Study
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- Identify the four early periods of communication study.
- Explain the major changes in communication study in the 20th century.
- Identify major scholars who helped shape the field of Communication.
- Discuss how Communication departments and professional organizations formed.
- 4.1: History of Communication Study Overview
- Over time, the study of communication has largely been prompted by the current social issues of particular time periods. Knowing this, we’ll examine the pertinent questions, topics, and scholars of the Classical, Medieval, Renaissance, and Enlightenment periods to find out what they learned about communication to help them understand the world around them. Next, we will highlight the rapid growth of contemporary communication.
- 4.2: The Classical Period (500 BCE-400 CE)
- It is largely agreed-upon that the formal study of communication began approximately 2,500 years ago in Greece and Sicily. It is here that we will begin our tour of Ancient Greece with the “fantastic four”—Aspasia of Miletus, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle—who have come to be regarded as the foremother and forefathers of rhetoric and the field of Communication as a whole. Then, we’ll turn to scholars who extended the work of the fantastic four—Corax, Tisias, Cicero, Quintilian, and Pan Chao.
- 4.3: The Medieval Period (400 CE-1400 CE)
- During the Medieval Period, the Greco-Roman culture was dominated by Christian influence after the fall of the Roman Empire. The church felt threatened by secular rhetorical works they considered full of pagan thought. While the church preserved many of the classical teachings of rhetoric, it made them scarce to those not in direct service to the church. A secular education was extremely hard to obtain during the Medieval Period for almost everyone.
- 4.4: The Renaissance (1400-1600 CE)
- Secular institutions and governments started to compete with the church for personal allegiances. As more people felt comfortable challenging the church’s approach to education, reinvigorated attention to classical learning and fresh opportunities for scholarly education reemerged. As with the two previous periods we’ve examined, obtaining education for women was still tough, as many social limitations continued to restrict their access to knowledge.
- 4.5: The Enlightenment (1600-1800 CE)
- A maturing Europe continued to see a lessening of tension between the church and secular institutions, and the transformation of the Communication field was a reflection of broader cultural shifts. Modernizations, such as the printing press, made the written word more readily available to the masses through newspapers and books thus, forever changing the ways people learned and communicated. This era was the precursor to the industrial revolution.
- 4.6: New School- Communication Study in the 20th Century
- ‘Topics such as persuasion, public speaking, political debate, preaching, letter writing, and education guided communication study in the early periods as these were the pressing social matters of the day. With the industrial revolution in full effect, major world changes took place that impacted the continuing advancement of communication study. We have seen more changes in the ways humans communicate, and communication study, in the past 100 years than in any other time in history.
- 4.7: Communication Study Today and Tomorrow
- Today, many colleges and universities have Communication as part of their curriculum with departments titled with names like Speech, Speech Communication, and Communication. Likewise, our professional organizations are still active in growing and strengthening the field through teaching and research. Even with the increased recognition, there is still considerable growth, change, and movement taking place in communication study.
- 4.8: History of Communication Study Summary
- 4.9: History of Communication Study References