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The use of communications technologies in contemporary social movements (for example, “Occupy Wall Street” and the “Arab Spring”) is well documented, but these movements are not without precedent. Printing was the new media of the European Renaissance, and, by analysing how religious reformers exploited newly-developed print media technologies to disseminate their ideas, we can better understand how new media shaped the diffusion of beliefs, the impact of exposure to new ideas, and institutional change.

This research uses a database of 114,483 geolocated books and pamphlets printed between 1457 and 1600 to track the diffusion of ideas across space and time. It finds that cities with more competitive media markets were more likely to produce radical media and that competition had an even  stronger impact on the diffusion of ideas in cities with initially low levels of institutional and policy autonomy.


  • To demonstrate visually the diffusion of ideas and their effect on institutional change during the protestant reformation in a way that is engaging and informative, drawing comparisons with or alluding to contemporary social movements where possible