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The Reading Mania Class 10 History NCERT
Class 10 History students should refer to the following NCERT Book chapter The Reading Mania in standard 10. This NCERT Book for Grade 10 History will be very useful for exams and help you to score good marks
The Reading Mania NCERT Class 10
The Reading Mania
Through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries literacy rates went up in most parts of Europe. Churches of different denominations set up schools in villages, carrying literacy to peasants and artisans. By the end of the eighteenth century, in some parts of Europe literacy rates were as high as 60 to 80 per cent. As literacy and schools spread in European countries, there was a virtual reading mania. People wanted books to read and printers produced books in everincreasing numbers.
New forms of popular literature appeared in print, targeting new audiences. Booksellers employed pedlars who roamed around villages, carrying little books for sale. There were almanacs or ritual calendars, along with ballads and folktales. But other forms of reading matter, largely for entertainment, began to reach ordinary readers as well. In England, penny chapbooks were carried by petty pedlars known as chapmen, and sold for a penny, so that even the poor could buy them. In France, were the ‘Biliotheque Bleue’, which were low-priced small books printed on poor quality paper, and bound in cheap blue covers. Then there were the romances, printed on four to six pages, and the more substantial ‘histories’ which were stories about the past. Books were of various sizes, serving many different purposes and interests.
The periodical press developed from the early eighteenth century, combining information about current affairs with entertainment. Newspapers and journals carried information about wars and trade,as well as news of developments in other places. Similarly, the ideas of scientists and philosophers now became more accessible to the common people. Ancient and medieval scientific texts were compiled and published, and maps and scientific diagrams were widely printed. When scientists like Isaac Newton began to publish their discoveries, they could influence a much wider circle of scientifically minded readers. The writings of thinkers such as Thomas Paine, Voltaire and Jean Jacques Rousseau were also widely printed and read. Thus their ideas about science, reason and rationality found their way into popular literature.
4.1 ‘Tremble, therefore, tyrants of the world!’
By the mid-eighteenth century, there was a common conviction that books were a means of spreading progress and enlightenment. Many believed that books could change the world, liberate society from despotism and tyranny, and herald a time when reason and intellect would rule. Louise-Sebastien Mercier, a novelist in eighteenth-century France, declared: ‘The printing press is the most powerful engine of progress and public opinion is the force that will sweep despotism away.’ In many of Mercier’s novels, the heroes are transformed by acts of reading. They devour books, are lost in the world books create, and become enlightened in the process. Convinced of the power of print in bringing enlightenment and destroying the basis of despotism, Mercier proclaimed: ‘Tremble, therefore, tyrants of the world! Tremble before the virtual writer!’
4.2 Print Culture and the French Revolution
Many historians have argued that print culture created the conditions within which French Revolution occurred. Can we make such a connection?
Three types of arguments have been usually put forward. First: print popularised the ideas of the Enlightenment thinkers. Collectively, their writings provided a critical commentary on tradition, superstition and despotism. They argued for the rule of reason rather than custom, and demanded that everything be judged through the application of reason and rationality. They attacked the sacred authority of the Church and the despotic power of the state, thus eroding the legitimacy of a social order based on tradition. The writings of Voltaire and Rousseau were read widely; and those who read these books saw the world through new eyes, eyes that were questioning, critical and rational.
Second: print created a new culture of dialogue and debate. All values, norms and institutions were re-evaluated and discussed by a public that had become aware of the power of reason, and recognised the need to question existing ideas and beliefs. Within this public culture, new ideas of social revolution came into being.
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