Columbia Journalism School

Richard R. John


Richard R.  John

Photo/Piotr Redlinski

Professor of History and Communications

Richard R. John is a historian who specializes in the history of business, technology, communications, and American political development.  He teaches and advises graduate students in Columbia’s Ph.D. program in communications, and is member of the core faculty of the Columbia history department, where he teaches courses on the history of capitalism and the history of communications.  His publications include many essays, four edited books, and two monographs: : Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse (1995) and Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications (2010). For more information, download his vitae. He is the editor of the "Business, Technology, and Politics" monograph book series sponsored by the Hagley Museum and Library and co-editor (with Robin L. Einhorn) of a classroom book series on "How Things Worked:  Institutional Dimensions of the American Past."  Both are published by Johns Hopkins University Press. 

In December of 2010, John debated law Professor Tim Wu at a Journalism School-sponsored forum on "Big Media: Pro and Con," which aired on C-SPAN2's Book TV. John also appeared on Book TV and before an audience at the New America Foundation to discuss his monograph Network Nation, which won the first Ralph Gomory Book Prize from the Business History Conference and was the 2010 Best Book in Journalism and Mass Communication History, an award bestowed by the History Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. His book was also the subject of an interview conducted by the editors of the online magazine Ubiquity. For a recent review of Network Nation, click here. He has also been interviewed about his research on communications networks in several forums, including the History News Network.

John has been a fellow at the Newberry Library in Chicago and the Smithsonian Institution's Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D. C., and has served as a visiting professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris. Among the institutions that have sponsored his research are the College of William and Mary, the American Antiquarian Society, and the National Endowment of the Humanities, which awarded him a faculty fellowship in 2008. Spreading the News received several national awards, including the Allan Nevins Prize from the Society of American Historians and the Herman E. Krooss Prize from the Business History Conference. John is a former president of the Business History Conference, an international professional society dedicated to the study of institutional history.

Between 1977 and 1989, John earned a B.A. in social studies (magna cum laude), a M.A. in history and a Ph.D. in the history of American civilization, all from Harvard University.


  • Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010; paperback, 2015.

  • Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse.  Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1995; paperback, 1998.

Edited Volumes

  • Making News:  The Political Economy of Journalism in Britain and America from the Glorious Revolution to the InternetCo-editor, with Jonathan Silberstein-Loeb.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2015.

  • The American Postal Network, 1792-1914.  4 vols.  London: Pickering & Chatto, 2012.

  • Ruling Passions:  Political Economy in Nineteenth Century America.  University Park:  Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006.  Originally appeared as a special issue of the Journal of Policy History, 18 no. 1 (2006).

  • Computers and Communications Networks, special issue of Business History Review, 75 (Spring 2001).

  • Managing Big Business: Essays from the Business History Review. Co-editor, with Richard S. Tedlow.  Boston:  Harvard Business School Press, 1986.

Selected Essays by Richard R. John (PDFs)

Other Essays by Richard R. John (PDFs)

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
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