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The University of Alabama

Take Note: UA Professor Explores 17th-Century Shorthand in England

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama and University Libraries invite the public to hear a lecture by Dr. Michael Mendle, professor of history at UA, titled “Absolutely the Most Important Thing You Know Nothing About:  Shorthand and Civilization in 17th Century England.” The lecture will take place at 3 p.m. Wednesday, March 6, in 205 Gorgas Library. The lecture is free; refreshments will be served.

“Isaac Newton, the mathematician; John Locke the philosopher; Samuel Pepys, the navy official and diarist; and Roger Williams, the great apologist for religious liberty had something in common — they were all shorthand adepts,” Mendle says.

Mendle will discuss how stenography, which he describes as “an information technology for the clever and ‘geeky,’” first emerged and developed in 17th-century England, becoming essential to news-gathering and eventually transforming law and public culture.

“The trial transcript as we know it today emerged in the period, and with it, an expectation that these documents would be immediately and bitterly contested if they did not pass muster with a crowd of plaintiffs, defendants, jurors, and observers,” says Mendle, who views shorthand reportage as a pillar of “objectivity” and the “culture of fact.”

The history department is part of UA’s College of Arts and Sciences, the University’s largest division and the largest liberal arts college in the state. Students from the College have won numerous national awards including Rhodes Scholarships, Goldwater Scholarships and memberships on the USA Today Academic All American Team.

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.