12.0035 what a difference a day (week, month, year) makes

Humanist Discussion Group (humanist@kcl.ac.uk)
Wed, 20 May 1998 08:03:34 +0100 (BST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 12, No. 35.
Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London

Date: Wed, 20 May 1998 07:57:45 +0100
From: Willard McCarty <Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk>
Subject: high-speed communications

It's 7:46 AM, Wednesday, 20 May 1998. Check your watch, then calendar, and
consider the following from Bill Bryson's hugely entertaining Made in
America (London: Reed, 1995), pp. 188-9:

"On 8 January 1815 General Andrew Jackson led American troops in a stormy
rout of the British at the Battle of New Orleans. It was a decisive triumph
-- or would have been had there been anything to be decisive about. Unknown
to the combatants on both sides, the War of 1812 had been amicably concluded
over port and brandy two weeks earlier with the signing of the Treaty of
Ghent. More than two thousand men died fighting a battle in a war that was

"Rarely did a letter posted in Boston in November reach London before the
following spring.... Even news of crucial import was frequently delayed. No
one in America knew of the Stamp Act or its subsequent withdrawal for two
months after both events. The Bastille was stormed in July 1789, but
President Washington, newly inaugurated, didn't learn of it until the
following autumn.

"Within America matters were, if anything, worse. Often letters never found
their destination and when they did it was not uncommon for a year to elapse
before they received a reply. Letters routinely began with a summation of
the fate of previous correspondence, as in this note from Thomas Jefferson,
writing from Philadelphia in 1776, to William Randolph in Virginia: 'Dear
Sir, Your's of August I received in this place, that of Nov. 24th. is just
now come to hand; the one of October I imagine has miscarried.'"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dr. Willard McCarty, Senior Lecturer, King's College London
voice: +44 (0)171 873 2784 fax: +44 (0)171 873 5801
e-mail: Willard.McCarty@kcl.ac.uk

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