In the early modern period, there was a transformation of the possibilities of super-regional communication and information delivery. This process can be understood as part of a communications revolution which, along with the media revolution and the scientific revolution, is characteristic of the transition from the pre-modern epoch to the modern one.
One of the significant aspects of this transformation was the establishment of postal systems during early modernity. In the course of three hundred years, the various courier systems operated exclusively by ruling dynasties developed into a comprehensive and publicly-accessible postal network in Central Europe.
This development was fraught with consequences: the continuous flow of information along new channels of communication facilitated the creation of news periodicals and the transregional operation of printing presses – factors which made a significant contribution to the formation of an interested and informed public sphere. The existing postal network also transformed the means of travel, initially by giving travelers recourse to the infrastructure of the postal system, for example while changing horses, and later through the introduction of postal carriages and the improvement of roadways. The postal system also became a significant economic factor, in the first place because of the considerable cash income which postal carriers could earn, following an initial investment phase, and secondly through the positive influence of long-distance trade and banking networks.
Finally, the new communications medium influenced the overall perception of the world. The ever-increasing speed of the transport of information, goods and persons, the sectioning of space through mile-stones and distance markers as well as the increasing accessibility of peripheral regions, all led to changes in how time and space were perceived.
In this module, we illustrate the development of postal systems in kingdoms and in their immediate environs, and show how the competition of various postal systems spurred the creation of a dense, comprehensive communications network. There are analogous processes observable in respect to periodicals and print media along the same routes of communication.