Print ISBN: 978-1-64265-285-7
# of Pages: 600
# of Volumes: 2
Print List Price: $295
e-ISBN: 978-1-64265-286-4
eBook User Price: $295
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Defining Documents in American History: The Free Press

November 2019

Defining Documents in American History: The Free Press offers an in-depth analysis of 50 primary source documents at the foundation of the study of freedom of speech. These include letters, newspaper reports, book excerpts, speeches, political debates, testimony, court rulings, and more. These selections explore the intricacies of defining what is meant by freedom of the press and how it is understood and applied in the United States.

The material is organized into four sections, and each section begins with a brief introduction that defines questions and problems related to freedom of the press underlying the subjects addressed in the historical documents.

  • Liberty, Speech, and the Printed Word in Early Debates including a selection from John Milton’s Areopagitica portions of the transcript, of John Peter Zenger’s trial, and James Madison’s 1880 Report, concerning the Sedition Act of 1798.
  • Muckraking, Yellow Journalism, War, Sedition, and More considers the reporting related to the sinking of the USS Maine, a selection from Lincoln Steffarn’s article in McClure Magazine, “The Shame of Minneapolis,” as well as several pivotal Supreme Court decisions: Schenk v. United States, Abrams v. United States, Gitlow v. New York, and Near v. Minnesota.
  • Radio, Television, Movies, Tapes, and Other Media in Past Decades includes such significant documents as a discussion of The War of the Worlds broadcast, a report concerning Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, Newton Minnow’s speech, “Television and the Public Interest,” and the decision in Hustler Magazine v. Falwell; and
  • Digital Dilemmas and Other Issues Today, which begins with the Declaration of Independence of Cyberspace and includes the Manning-Lamo chat logs, a piece of fake news (Pope Endorses Trump), and the Trump-Putin exchange regarding the media.

Each Historical Document is supported by a critical essay, written by historians and teachers, that includes a Summary Overview, Defining Moment, About the Author, Document Analysis, and Essential Themes. An important feature of each essay is a close reading of the primary source that develops broader themes, such as the author’s rhetorical purpose, social or class position, point of view, and other relevant issues. Each essay also includes a Bibliography Additional Reading section for further research.

Appendixes in this book include:

  • Chronological List which arranges all documents by year;
  • Web Resources, an annotated list of websites that offer valuable supplemental resources;
  • Bibliography, lists of helpful articles and books for further study; and an
  • Index

About the Series

The Defining Documents series provides in-depth commentary and analysis of the most important primary source documents in the United States and the world. The Defining Documents series is perfect for students, those researching a particular era, or anyone interested in world history. Visit for more information about additional titles in this series.

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