Elizabethan and early Stuart England saw the prevailing medium for transmitting military news shift from public ritual, through private letters, to public newspapers. Randall argues that the development of written news required new standards of credibility for the information to be believable. Whereas ritual news established credibility through public performance, letters circulated sociably between private gentlemen relied on the honour of the gentle author.
With the rise of anonymous pamphlets and corantos (early newspapers) at the beginning of the seventeenth century, a still-existing standard of credibility developed which was based on individuals reading multiple, anonymous texts.
Through examination of diaries from the period, Randall discovers that this standard quickly gained authority. This shift in epistemological authority mirrored a wider alteration in social and political power from an individual monarch first to a gentle elite and then to a newsreading public in the hundred years leading up to the British civil wars.
This study is based on a close examination of hundreds of manuscript news letters, printed pamphlets and corantos, and news diaries which are in holdings in the US and the UK.