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Drafting the Declaration of Independence. The Committee, published by Johnson, Fry & Co. Publishers, after Alonzo Chappel, 1890 [RP-47 ; Print-3347]

This event was originally scheduled to take place live and in person, but is now being offered virtually only.

Hear from historian Jordan E. Taylor, author of Misinformation Nation: Foreign News and the Politics of Truth in Revolutionary America. 

This provocative new book fundamentally reshapes our understanding of the causes of the American Revolution and the pivotal role foreign news and misinformation played in driving colonists to revolt against Britain and create a new nation.


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About the Book

"Fake news" is not new. Just like millions of Americans today, the revolutionaries of the eighteenth century worried that they were entering a "post-truth" era. Their fears, however, were not fixated on social media or clickbait, but rather on peoples' increasing reliance on reading news gathered from foreign newspapers. 

News was the lifeblood of early American politics, but newspaper printers had few reliable sources to report on events from abroad. Accounts of battles and beheadings, as well as declarations and constitutions, often arrived alongside contradictory intelligence. Though frequently false, the information that Americans encountered in newspapers, letters, and conversations framed their sense of reality, leading them to respond with protests, boycotts, violence, and the creation of new political institutions. Fearing that their enemies were spreading fake news, American colonists fought for control of the news media. As their basic perceptions of reality diverged, Loyalists separated from Patriots and, in the new nation created by the revolution, Republicans inhabited a political reality quite distinct from that of their Federalist rivals.

The American Revolution was not only a political contest for liberty, equality, and independence; it was a contest to define certain accounts of reality to be truthful while defining others as false and dangerous. This book argues that the American Revolution was a series of misperceptions, misunderstandings, and uninformed overreactions. In addition to making a striking and original argument about the founding of the United States, Misinformation Nation will be a valuable prehistory to our current political moment.

About the Author

Jordan E. Taylor is a historian of print and politics during the American Revolution. His new book Misinformation Nation won the Research Society for American Periodicals’ book prize. His academic articles, on topics ranging from newspaper printers’ role in the slave trade to an exploration of the impact of winter weather on early modern communications, have appeared in the Journal of the Early Republic, Eighteenth-Century Studies, Early American Studies, Book History, and elsewhere. He has also written for Slate, the Daily Beast, the Washington Post, and Time. He is based in Bloomington, Indiana, where he currently works as an editor and as an adjunct instructor for Indiana University.

Sponsored By The Ford Motor Company Fund

Mount Vernon has enjoyed a very special relationship with the Ford Motor Company dating back more than 90 years. We are grateful for their generous support and we applaud their abiding respect for American heritage.

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