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Informed Power

Informed Power

Communication in the Early American South

Alejandra Dubcovsky

ISBN 9780674660182

Publication date: 04/04/2016

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Informed Power maps the intricate, intersecting channels of information exchange in the early American South, exploring how people in the colonial world came into possession of vital knowledge in a region that lacked a regular mail system or a printing press until the 1730s.

Challenging the notion of early colonial America as an uninformed backwater, Alejandra Dubcovsky uncovers the ingenious ways its inhabitants acquired timely news through largely oral networks. Information circulated through the region via spies, scouts, traders, missionaries, and other ad hoc couriers—and by encounters of sheer chance with hunting parties, shipwrecked sailors, captured soldiers, or fugitive slaves. For many, content was often inseparable from the paths taken and the alliances involved in acquiring it. The different and innovative ways that Indians, Africans, and Europeans struggled to make sense of their world created communication networks that linked together peoples who otherwise shared no consensus of the physical and political boundaries shaping their lives.

Exchanging information was not simply about having the most up-to-date news or the quickest messenger. It was a way of establishing and maintaining relationships, of articulating values and enforcing priorities—a process inextricably tied to the region’s social and geopolitical realities. At the heart of Dubcovsky’s study are important lessons about the nexus of information and power in the early American South.


  • Alejandra Dubcovsky offers a nuanced interpretation of the ways in which early Americans communicated. She is a master of the primary source evidence and employs her keen analytic abilities to reveal not only that knowledge was power in this early modern world but how it circulated and whom it benefited. A groundbreaking work.

    —Peter C. Mancall, University of Southern California


  • Alejandra Dubcovsky is Assistant Professor of History at Yale University.

Book Details

  • 304 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press