Modern World History SLP 3

Modern World History


How does Speier define public opinion?

Speier defines public opinion in regards the historical review as “opinions on matters of concern to the nation freely and publicly expressed by men outside the government who claim a tight that their opinions should influence or determine the actions, personnel, or structure of government” (Speier 1950).

Until the French Revolution writers feared that the public at large were unreliable due to superstition, prejudice, and excess passion. Who did earlier writers believe was likely to hold reasonable opinions?

What does Speier mean when he says that “Public opinion is a phenomenon of middle-class civilization”?

  1. Before public opinion became a popular idea for governance, faith to hold reasonable opinions was placed more on philosophers, and councilors. Kings were expected to have opinions as well but good rulers would confer with council, and philosophers to come to a clear decision (Speier 1950).

Prior to increased economic equality between the citizens and their ruling class public opinion held no sway over government. In England following the industrial revolutions increases in wage to create a middle class the revolution went quietly, however when examining the French revolution, the middle class had a sharp increase in taxes, and felt their rulers were taxing what they had earned from them, as a result the disposed their rulers and establish a government ruled by public opinion. It has been theorized that the middle class, because they are not in a constant state of survivalist existence, have time to make opinions on governance and a will to see them enforced (Himmelfarb 1948).

What new ways to circulate information helped the new middle class learn about current affairs?

The advent of the printing press changed the very nature of human interaction, as continued advancements came along during the industrial revolution, newspaper, magazines, radio, telegraphs, and film, all allowed wide communication among the middle class, and between countries. Causing a very fast increase in knowledge and desire for betterment of life (Speier 1950).


Speier,Hans (1950) “Historical Development of Public Opinion” the American Journal of Sociology vol 55. No 4. Pp. 376-388

Himmelfarb, Gertrude (1948). “The Background of the French Revolution” reprinted in essays on freedom and power. Boston. P. 267

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