The coffeehouse internet

The Christmas edition of The Economist gives journalists on the magazine a chance to let their hair down and write longer articles on subjects beyond the usual scope of the weekly edition. My contribution this year was a piece on the coffeehouse internet, which looks at the internet-like role played by coffeehouses in the 17th and 18th centuries. They acted as information exchanges for scientists, politicians and businessmen, and were particularly popular in London. In the days before regular postal deliveries, coffeehouses were also used as mailing addresses. Regulars would pop in a couple of times a day to check for new mail and hear the latest news and gossip. Sounds like the internet to me; expect more of the same in my next book.

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