A New Edition of “Empire and Communications” (1950) by Harold A. Innis



By Harold A. Innis

Edited by William J. Buxton
Introduction by William J. Buxton

Originally published in 1950, Harold A. Innis’s Empire and Communications is considered to be one of the classic works in media studies, yet its origins have received little attention. Ambitious in its scope, the book spans five millennia, tracing a path of development around the globe from 2900 BCE to the twentieth century and revealing the cyclical interplay between communications and power structures across space and time.

In this new edition, William J. Buxton pays close attention to handwritten glosses that Innis added to a copy of the original edition and the revisions undertaken by his widow, Mary Q. Innis. A new introduction provides a detailed account of how the book emerged from lectures that Innis delivered at Oxford University in 1948, as well as how it related to other presentations Innis made in Britain during the same period. It explores how Innis sought to enrich his analysis by incorporating material related to phenomena such as war, education, religion, culture, geography, and finance. An insightful foreword by Marshall McLuhan is included, as well as bibliographical references and a revised index.

By providing a narrative based on extensive notes from Innis, this edition makes Empire and Communications more accessible and contributes to the broad efforts to shape Innis’s legacy.

Book Details
Published: August 2022, © 2022
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 288 Pages
Available Formats: Paperback, EBook – EPUB, EBook – PDF
Source: https://tinyurl.com/2p83vpz9

William J. Buxton is Professor Emeritus of Communication Studies at Concordia University in Montreal. Author of  numerous articles on intellectual and cultural history as well as the sociology of knowledge he has most recently edited and co-edited four collections entitled Harold Innis and the North: Appraisals and ContestationsHarold Innis’s History of Communications: Paper and Printing from Antiquity to Early ModernityHarold Innis ReflectsMemoir, World-War I Writings and Correspondence and Harold Innis on Peter Pond: Biography, Cultural Memory, and the Continental Fur Trade. He has edited and written an introduction to the 3rd University of Toronto edition of Harold Innis’s seminal text Empire and Communications.


John Durham Peters, Maria Rosa Menocal Professor of English and of Film and Media Studies, Yale University :
Empire and Communications offers a brisk cinematic montage of the struggles of civilizations to manage space, time, and power. This new edition sparkles with fresh archival materials showcasing Innis’s creative process. In the present chaos, we need his critical thinking more than ever. Here, once again, Harold Innis takes flight in the gathering dusk!”

Michael Stamm, Professor of History, Michigan State University :
Empire and Communications is a canonical work dense with historical and historiographical allusions that are obscure to many contemporary readers, and William J. Buxton’s masterful introduction provides invaluable detail about the intellectual currents with which Innis was engaged. Even more importantly, Buxton explains the historical context vital for understanding the book’s conception and production, in the process both giving Mary Q. Innis her proper due in shaping its content and illuminating for readers the work’s critical politics.”

Illustrated Edition, Published by Press Porcépic, 1986

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