Print Culture and the Modern World

Print Culture and the Modern World
Print Culture and the Modern World

Q.1 Give reason for the following:

a. Woodblock print only came to Europe after 1295
b. Martin Luther was in favour of print and spoke out in praise of it
c. The Roman Catholic Church began keeping an Index of Prohibited books from the midsixteenth century
d. Gandhi said the fight for Swaraj is a fight for the liberty of speech, liberty of the press, and freedom of association

Solution: (a) Marco Polo, the Italian explorer, visited China and learnt the technology of woodblock

printing. When he returned to Italy in 1295 he brought this knowledge back with him. Gradually this

knowledge spread from Italy to other parts of Europe.

(b) In 1517, Martin Luther, the religious reformer wrote Ninety Five Theses that criticised the corrupt

practices of the Catholic Church and pasted these on the church door in Wittenberg. Very soon

thousands of copies of Luther's Theses were printed, spreading his ideas among people. Martin Luther

was deeply moved by realizing the power of printing which brought about reformation movement and

the eventual birth of Protestantism.

(c) Print and popular literature encouraged many distinctive interpretations of religious faiths and ideas.

In the 16th century, Manocchio, a roller in Italy began to read books available readily in his locality. He

gave a new interpretation of the Bible and formulated a view of God, and creation that enraged the

Roman Catholic Church. As a result, Manocchio was hauled up twice and ultimately executed when the

Roman Catholic Church began its inquisition

(d) Mahatma Gandhi said these words in 1922 during the Non-cooperation Movement (1920-22).

According to him, without the liberty of speech, the liberty of the press and freedom of association, no

nation can even survive. If the country was to get free from foreign domination, then these liberties

were quite important.

Q.2 Write short notes on what you know about:

a. The Gutenberg Press
b. Erasmus’s idea of the printed book
c. The Vernacular Press Act

Solution: (a) The Gutenberg Press 'Gutenberg' press was the first printing press of Europe. It was

invented by Johann Gutenberg of Strasbourg. He grew up in a large agricultural estate and had

knowledge and experience in operating olive and wine presses. He invented the printing press around

the year 1448 with the Bible being the first book to be printed.

(b) Erasmus's Idea of the Printed Book Erasmus, the Latin scholar, was not happy with the printing of

books because he was afraid that this would lead to the circulation of books with rebellious ideas. He

felt that although a few books may give useful information, the majority of books may just be irrelevant

or illogical through which scandalous of irreligious ideas will spread, ultimately leading to incitement of


(c) The Vernacular Press Act was passed in 1878 by the British government in India. This act provided

the government with extensive rights to censor reports and editorials in the Vernacular Press. If a

Vernacular Paper published any seditious material, the paper was banned and its printing machinery

was seized and destroyed.

Q.3 What did the spread of print culture in the nineteenth century India mean to:

a. Women
b. The poor
c. Reformers

Solution: (a) Women: Women became as important as readers and writers. Reading habits improved

among them. With an increase in literacy, women took great interest in reading and writing. Many

journals started emphasizing the importance of women's education. Many magazines and books were

especially published for women. The print culture gave women some amount of freedom to read and

develop their own views on various issues, especially those related to women.

(b) The Poor: As the literacy rate improved in Europe as well as in India, printed material, especially for

entertainment, began to reach even the poor. In England 'penny magazines' were carried by peddlers

and sold for a penny, so that even poor people could buy them. Those who could not read could listen

to the stories and folklore. These could be read out to them by others. Books could be hired on a

nominal fee from some book owners. Even in India, very cheap small books were brought to market in

19th century Madras towns, allowing poor people to have access to print culture.

(c) Reformers: Reformers used newspapers, journals and books to highlight the social evils prevailing

in the society. Raja Ram Mohan Roy published the Sambad Kaumudi to highlight the plight of widows.

From the 1860s, many Bengali women writers like Kailashbashini Debi wrote books highlighting the

experiences of women, about how women were imprisoned at home, kept in ignorance, forced to do

hard domestic labour and treated unjustly by the menfolk they served.


Q.1 Why did some people in the eighteenth century Europe think that culture would bring enlightenment and end despotism?

Solution: (i) Spreading of New Ideas After the coming of print culture, the ideas of scientists and

philosophers now became more accessible to the common people. Ancient and medieval scientific

texts were compiled and published.

(ii) Books as Medium of Progress By the eighteenth century, books became a medium of spreading

progress and enlightenment which could change society and the world. It was also believed that the

books could liberate society from despotism and tyranny.

(iii) Writings of Scholars The writings of thinkers such as Jean Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Paine and

Voltaire were also widely printed and could gain popularity. Thus their ideas about science, rationality

and reasoning found their way into popular literature.

(iv) Scientific Discoveries Maps and more accurate scientific diagrams were widely printed when

scientists like Issac Newton began to publish their discoveries. They could influence a much wider

circle of scientifically-minded readers.

Q.3 What were the effects of the spread of print culture for poor people in nineteenth-century India?

Solution: Public libraries were set up from the early twentieth century, expanding access to books.

These libraries were located mostly in cities and towns, and at times in prosperous villages. For rich

local patrons, setting up a library was a way of acquiring prestige.

From the late nineteenth century, issues of caste discrimination began to be written about in many

printed tracts and essays.

Jyotiba Phule, the Maratha pioneer of ‘low caste’ protest movements, wrote about the injustices of the

caste system in his Gulamgiri (1871). In the twentieth century, B.R. Ambedkar in Maharashtra and E.V.

Ramaswamy Naicker in Madras, better known as Periyar, wrote powerfully on caste and their writings

were read by people all over India. Local protest movements and sects also created a lot of popular

journals and tracts criticising ancient scriptures and envisioning a new and just future.

At the very least it made pooer people aware of their rights and place in society and Print media

showed the way in which they can improve their lot in life

Q.4 Explain how the print culture assisted in the growth of nationalism in India.

Solution: Print culture assisted in the growth of nationalism in India in the following ways:

i) By the end of the 19th century, a large number of newspapers in Indian vernacular languages were

published, making it easier to circumvent the language barriers among the various ethnic groups of


(ii) These newspapers published articles written by national leaders. Their ideas were communicated to

the masses through these newspapers.

(iii) The people of different communities and places were thus connected by print media. Newspapers

conveyed news from one place to another, creating a pan-Indian identity.

(iv) The nationalist newspapers exposed the colonial misrule and encouraged nationalist activities. As

these were written in spoken languages of various regions common man could easily understand the


(v) For example, when Punjab revolutionaries were deported in 1907, Balagangadhar Tilak wrote

articles sympathising with them. He was arrested which provoked protest among masses.

Thus it is clear, print culture assisted the growth of nationalism in India.

Q.2 Why did some people fear the effect of easily available printed books? Choose one example from Europe and one from India.

Solution: Some people, especially from the upper class fear the effect of easily available printed books due to

the spread of literacy among the common people. They feared that they might lose their position or authorities.

Some people thought that it might lead to the spread of rebellions and irreligious thoughts.


(i) In Europe, the Roman Catholic Church tried to curb the printed books through the Index of Prohibited Books.

(ii) In India, the Vernacular Press Act imposed restrictions on Indian press and various local newspapers.