NCERT Notes Class 10 Social Science History Chapter 5 Print Culture and the Modern World

NCERT Notes Class 10 Social Science History Chapter 5 Print Culture and the Modern World

Chapter 5 Print Culture and the Modern World NCERT Notes

Chapter Name

Print Culture and the Modern World Notes


CBSE Class 10

Textbook Name

India and the Contemporary World II Class 10

Related Readings

  • Notes for Class 10
  • Notes for Class 10 History
  • NCERT Solutions for Print Culture and the Modern World 


Printed matter is prevalent in our daily lives. From printed books, images, newspapers to hoardings, advertisements and pamphlets; Print has become a very integral part of our modern lives.

But there was a time when printed matter did not exist, and there were other ways by which information was going on. There was a gradual shift from handwritten point to printed matter, with the invention of new machines and presses; and this transformation had a marked effect on the lives of the people.

  • The First Printed Books Hand printing was the initial form of painting; practised in China, Japan and Korea.
  • Inked wooden blocks, having alphabets carved out by artisans, were rubbed against the paper. The papers then made were porous, so two articles were not published. The not printed sides were sown, and such ‘accordion books’ in China were made.
  • In the sixteenth century, China was one a country producing printed matter on a large scale. Initially, it included only textbooks for examinations of civil services.
  • Gradually, other printed matter became available to the people. People were more interested in reading fictional stories, poetries, plays, autobiographies and the like. Likewise, trade information became available in printed form, which was vastly used by traders.
  • With the rise in population and an increase in demand for new types of printed matter- there was a need to publish it faster. Western techniques and presses were introduced in China to fulfil the new reading class’s demands of the nineteenth century.
  • One of the most famous hums for the new Print is Shanghai

Print in Japan

  • The Print was introduced in Japan around AD 768-770 by China’s Buddhist missionaries.
  • Printed in AD 868, the Buddhist Diamond Sutra is the oldest Japanese book.
  • The handprinted matter became a common sight in Japan’s libraries and markets, ranging from textbooks to books on prose, poetry, paintings, etc. There were also books on women, manners and etiquettes, cooking, flower arrangements and many more.
  • Paintings of representations also became famous in Japan. Edo’s pictures illustrated an elegant urban culture that involved artists, teahouse gatherings, and courtesans.

Print Comes to Europe

Introduction of Chinese paper to Europe opened the ways to make manuscripts, written by skilled hand writers or scribes. Initially, handwritten editions were available to aristocratic people and monastic libraries on vellum, expensive.

With the coming of the paper, many manuscripts were being made and exported. Scribes found employment not only under wealthy employers but also by booksellers.

Manuscripts had its disadvantages: copying was expensive, time-consuming and a very laborious task. Also, the documents were difficult to handle and could not be carried around easily and fragile. With the growing demand for books, manuscripts were insufficient to fulfil the request.

In 1295, Marco Polo, a great explorer, introduced woodblock printing in Italy. From Italy, it spread to various parts of the world. Soon, woodblock painting became widely used to print books, textiles, play cards, pictures, and much more.

Gutenberg and the Printing Press

Gutenberg grew up on large farms, where he had seen wine and olive presses. He became a master goldsmith, who had the expertise of creating lead moulds for making trinkets.
  • Gutenberg applied this knowledge to create the printing press, where olive press formed the base model of the printing press, and the lead moulds were used to cast alphabets.
  • In 1448, Gutenberg printed the first book on the press. It was the Bible.
  • The publishes published180 copies of the Bible in 3 years, a high-speed production by the then standards.

Gradually, the more developed printing press came into everyday use, and many books were published. This transition of hand printing to automatic printing led to print revolution.

Though the printing press was introduced, it did not entirely stop hand printing. The metal casts were designed such that they resembled handwritten styles. Books were printed in the media with the borders designed according to the reader’s choice.

The Print Revolution and its Impact

The print revolution was the transformation that printed matter brought to the people’s lives. Many people and the content were not restricted to the religious and academic point; new ideologies and thoughts came to be acknowledged, and a new culture came into being.

A New Reading Public

Before the process of the printing press, reading was restricted to a limited population. As books were expensive and not produced in large number, ordinary people did not have access to them.

Before print culture there resided an oral culture, where information was passed on orally; sacred texts were read out, plays were performed and folk stories recited.

Even after the printing press process, when books became cheap and available in large numbers, not many could read it. An as large section of the European society was illiterate, books on folk tales and ballads were printed with beautiful pictures for illustrations. Such was then read out to people gatherings at villages or towns.

Gradually, with the availability of cheap books, people learned to read. Oral culture slowly was paving a path to reading culture.

Religious Debates and the Fear of Print

In the oral culture, religious faiths and norms were passed on from generations. They believed what was said by the religious authorities. As not many were literate, people could not read the spiritual or sacred text and understand their own. This was also the case with other spheres.

But with the spread of print culture, many could read and interpret things in their ways. They published their views and spread it among the crowd, persuading them to throw away the old age norms.

This led to fear of the printed matter. Many thought that with the circulations of new and varied ideas, old texts would lose their value, leading to a spread of irreligious and rebellious ideas. Because of this, many wanted restrictions on what could be printed.

Martin Luther

Martin Luther was a religious reformer. In 1517, he wrote Ninety Five Thesis where he criticized the Roman Catholic Church’s practices and rituals. A copy of the work was posted on a church’s door in Wittenberg.
  • Soon, Martin Luther’s work spread like a forest fire, leading to the sale of 5000 copies in the first few weeks.
  • The Thesis had a significant impact on the readers. There was a division in the Church itself, which led to Protestant Reformation.
  • Martin Luther stated Print as “the ultimate gift of God and the greatest one”.

Print and Dissent

Easy availability of printed matter significantly impacted the people’s ideas and thoughts. Those who had little knowledge about reading and writing also read religious texts and deciphered the message according to their understanding.

  • Menocchio, a miller in Itlay, began reading books in his locality.
  • His interpretations about God and Creation were not acceptable to the Roman Catholic Church.
  • Menocchio was dragged up publicly twice and then executed. This was done so set an example to those who questioned and criticized the Roman Catholic Church’s ways.

From 1558, the Church began to maintain Prohibited Books’ Index to gain control over publishers and booksellers. The Church did this to stop the criticisms and restore people’s faith in them.

The Reading Mania

Eighteenth and nineteenth-century Europe saw an increase in literacy rates, which caused a rise in books publications. As more people became literate, and many cultivated the habit of reading, there came a demand for varied categories of printed matter.

To sell books to every nook and corner of the country, publishers in England, began hiring chapmen. These were petty pedlars who carried penny chapbooks and sold them to the poor.

In France, “Bibliotheque Bleue” were cheap books printed on low-quality paper, bounded in blue colour covers.

Along with stories, scientists’ theories and philosophies also came to be published. Such publications helped scientists in various parts of the world know about the ongoing research on a particular topic. Ideas of philosophers such as Thomas Paine, Voltaire and Jean Jacques had a great impact on the readers’ minds.

Newspapers, periodicals and magazines also gained popularity from the early eighteenth century. These compiled information on various topic significant published matter on the national and cultural importance and current affairs. This helped people to know about the events happening in their country.

Tremble, therefore Tyrant of the World

  • This is a statement proclaimed by a French novelist of the eighteenth century: Louise-Sebastien Mercier.
  • Mercier and many believed Print to be the engine that would enlighten people to fight against them’ autocratic rule and injustice.
  • Mercier books protagonists were mainly readers who were inspired by the ideas and philosophies delivered by books.
  • Thus the statement “Tremble, therefore, tyrants of the world! Tremble before the virtual writer!”

Print Culture and the French Revolution

There are three arguments or points that link print culture to the French revolution:

  • Many revolutionary ideas were spread through Print. Concept of reasons and knowledge should be applied to govern a country rather than traditions were popularized by writers such as Voltaire and Rousseau. Many criticized and questioned the age-old beliefs and superstitions; introducing people to theories and thoughts made them rethink all the customs that were followed till then.
  • As many people read new ideas, some agreed to them while others did not. This opened the opportunities to discussions and arguments, enabling the public to evaluate the writings and opinion of their own. This debate and discussion culture, called the public culture, paved the way to a social revolution in Europe.
  • Literature that made fun of the monarchy also gained ground. Cartoons and caricatures of the aristocrats were published that showed the people how the royalty was only interested in the power and had a minimal sense of duty towards the common men that suffered painfully under their rule. This created a sense of hatred for the aristocrats and the monarchs.

Though the arguments say a lot about Print’s contribution to the spread of new French society ideas, one should not ignore the literature available that supported the traditions and beliefs followed till then. They encouraged them as the message of good.

According to their understanding, people read both the type of ideas and accepted and rejected them. So, we can say that print culture did not directly influence the people, but it opened them to new ideas and helped them form opinions of their own.

The Nineteenth Century

Children, Women and Workers

Children: Books for children became prominent in society. As primary education became compulsory, books for children flooded the market. Textbooks for children became a heavy task for the publishers, and many houses were established that were solely responsible for publishing children’s’ books.

Stories and folk tales were re-written with some changes that suited the children’s innocent minds. The Grimm Brothers spent years compiling various accounts collected from peasants and village older men and finally published them in 1812.

Women: Women also became essential readers. Books on etiquettes and housekeeping were published for women. Women were also seen as well known novelists in the nineteenth century, with Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and George Eliot being prominent. The novels they wrote portrayed a different type of woman – a person who had an opinion of her own, a strong will and an influencing personality.

Workers: Workers also became interested in reading and learning new knowledge. Many lower middle-class people and artists started renting from libraries and educated themselves. From the mid-nineteenth century, when the working hours were getting shorter, the workers found themselves expressing their views and thoughts through writing.

Further Innovations

Rzichard M. Hoe introduced a power-driven cylindrical press that could publish 8000 sheets per hour.
  • Offset press was developed by the nineteenth century that could print six colours.
  • In the 1920s, cheap series, called Shilling Series, was published, which consisted of famous works.
  • Dust covers or jacket covers were also introduced in the twentieth century.

India and the World of Print

Manuscript before the Age of Print

Preserving information through manuscripts had been an ancient practice in India. They were written in various languages – Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian, and local languages.

Manuscripts were written on palm leaves or handmade papers and then either pressed between wooden covers or sewn together to keep the information safe.

But manuscripts were fragile and could be carried everywhere easily. They were also challenging to handle.

Print comes to India

The first printing press in Goa by Portuguese missionaries
  • In 1579, the first Tamil book was published, and in 1710, the first Malayalam book was published by the catholic priests.
  • James Augustus Hickey began editing a weekly magazine called Bengal Gazette, in 1780.
  • The magazine was proclaimed to be influenced by none. And so the magazine contained information about trade and sales. It also covered information and advertisements about the slavery business in India.
  • The magazine also published gossip about the Company’s officials and the news. This angered the Company, and the then Governor-General Warren Hastings harassed Hickey tremendously.
  • After this incident, the Company encouraged publishing newspapers under the Company rule, where what information is to be shared can be controlled.
  • Indians also published their newspapers. First among them was Bengal Gazette, published by Gangadhar Bhattacharya, a close ally of Rammohun Roy.

 Religious Reform and Public Debates

  • As literacy rates increased, more and more people became aware of people’s atrocities in the name of religion. They began forming opinions of their own. These ideas and thoughts were published in newspapers and magazines, which reached a large crowd.
  • As some wanted to end the age-old atrocities and bring new changes to the society, many supported the traditional system of beliefs and wanted things to go the way they always had.
  • Print became an essential source of tool to carry ideas and thoughts to a large number of people. It helped people shape their views, where they accepted and rejected arguments according to their understanding.
  • To reach more comprehensive society sections, religious reformer Raja Rammohun Roy began publishing Sambad Kaumudi from 1821. To counteract his ideas, Hindu orthodoxy published Samachar Chandrika.
  • Two Persian newspapers- Jam-i-Jahan Nama and Samshul Akhbar– were published. A Gujrati newspaper was also published named Bombay Samachar.
  • Fearing conversion under colonial rule, ulama decided to publish Holy Scripture translations in local languages to promote the people’s faith. The Deoband Seminary also issued fatwas to promote Islamic doctrines’ meanings and educate people on conducting themselves in their everyday lives.
  • Hindu literature was also encouraged via Print. Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas was published in Calcutta in 1810. Publishing houses such as Naval Kishore Press at Lucknow and Shri Venkateshwar Press in Bombay printed various religious texts, tales in local languages. These could be read by people everywhere and could be read out to illiterate people.

 New Forms of Publication

Varied forms of literature came into publishing with the increase in several readers. Different people had different demands, leading to various writing styles. Popular among these became novels, which reflected the ordinary people’s lives. People reading them could relate to the stories.

Visual paintings also became popular. Calendars and pictures of god and goddess adorned the people’s walls, be it rich or poor. This led to the employment of wood engravers. Photos depicting new social and cultural life also began to be printed. Such prints began shaping the people’s views on how a society can be changed for a better future.

Caricatures and cartoons also became famous. With these, editors sometimes tried to give strong messages to the public: contained arguments or thoughts on social, political or religious issues.

Women and Print

Women can be said to be significantly influenced by print culture. With the opening of women schools, many girls began to be educated. Fathers also taught their daughters at home. Journals and magazines were published which had attached syllabus to guide womenfolk at homes.

People who did not want women to be educated. Hindus thought that education would lead women to be widowed. Muslims feared that ladies would be corrupted by reading Urdu romances. But still, many women managed to learn to read and write by themselves in the confines of their home.

  • Rashsundari Debi was a young married girl of Bengal who learnt to read in her house. Later she wrote her autobiography named Amar Jiban, the first full-length autobiography, published in 1876.

Gradually, women began speaking up for their rights and strongly opposed the injustices they faced by the very people they served.

  • Kailashbashini Debi, a Bengali woman, wrote about women’s experiences in her house: about the hard labour they were forced to do, treat as inferiority, kept in the confines in the house, and many more.
  • Tarabai Shinde and Pandita Rambai wrote about the miserable lives of upper-caste Hindu women, especially the widows.

Hindi literature gained popularity from the 1870s. Many magazines, journals and newspapers began publishing issues of profound importance such as widow remarriage, the widow’s lives, women education, and national movement.

In Punjab, books were published for women as well. Ram Chaddha published a book named Istri Dharm Vichar to teach women to be obedient.

In Bengal, the Battala- central area of Calcutta- became famous for printing books for women. Cheap books were published on various topics, and such were distributed by peddlers which enabled women to read and educate themselves on different issues.

Print and the Poor People

Print changed the lives of all the sectors of society. Poor were also affected by the print culture. Cheap books were published and sold at crossroads to enable workers and labourers to buy and read them.

The caste system is rigid in India. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century, lower caste people were treated with disrespect and denied respect and position in society.

  • Jyotibha Phule, also known as Maratha pioneer of low-caste, published a book named Gulangiri in 1871, highlighting the injustices done through the caste system.
  • Ambedkar and E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker also wrote against the caste system, and such were read by a lot of people, bringing to light the plights of people which were ignored by people through the ages.

Mill-workers and labourers also engaged themselves in reading and learning to express their feelings and experiences.

  • Kashibaba, a Kanpur worker, published Chhote Aur Bade ka Sawaal where he defined the difference between upper and lower class people and about exploiting the people working in the industries and factories.
  • A mill worker under the name Sudarshan wrote many poems. These poems were compiled as a collection and published as Sacchi Kavitayan.
  • Many reformers and nationalists also helped workers set up libraries to educate them. This was hoping to help them get rid of their drinking habits.

Print and Censorship

During the early years of East India Company rule, it wasn’t much concerned about circulation and print matter control. Instead, it was the Company’s officials they were concerned about. Many Englishmen officials were not happy with the Company’s rule and thought they were misusing their powers and oppressing people. The Company, fearing of losing its monopoly right in India if such criticism reached the England government, took measures to control what was published by the Englishmen.
  • Calcutta Supreme Court passed some regulations to control freedom of the press. After pressurizations from vernacular newspapers and English editors, in 1835, press laws were revised. The Governor-General was Bentinck, and Thomas Macaulay was the colonial official who formulated new rules that gave the press the freedom to print.
  • After 1857, strict restrictions were imposed on the press. Some publications carried nationalist messages, and people were getting influenced on a large scale.
  • 1878, the Vernacular Press Act was passed. It gave the government control over what could be published. The Company kept track of the printed matter, and if found against the Company rule, the publisher was given a warning. If still, such act continued, the Company was liable to confiscate the property and shut it down.
  • Though the Company officials took stringent actions, the nationalist movement did not slow down. The restrictions even further provided fuel in their fight against the Company rule. An example of such is: Bal Gangadhar Tilak wrote in his Kesari against the act of cruelty done to Punjab Revolutionaries, for which he was imprisoned in 1908.
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