1st Edition

Public Relations, Society and the Generative Power of History

Edited By Ian Somerville, Lee Edwards, Øyvind Ihlen Copyright 2020
    222 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    222 Pages 10 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    Public Relations, Society and the Generative Power of History examines how histories are used to explore how the past is constructed from the present, how the present is always historical, and how both past and present can power imagined futures.

    Divided into three distinct parts, the book uses historical inquiry as a springboard for engaging with interdisciplinary, critical and complex issues in the past and present. Part I examines the history of corporate PR, the centrality of the corporation in PR scholarship and the possibility of resisting corporate hegemony through PR efforts. The theme of Part II is ‘Historicising gender, ethnicity and diversity in PR work,’ focusing on how gendered and racialised identities have been constructed and resisted both within the profession and through the result of its work. Part III engages with ‘Histories of public relations in the political sphere,’ bringing together work on the different ways in which public relations has evolved in changing political contexts, both formally as a function within political institutions and in the context of contributions to broader narratives of nationalism and identity.

    Featuring contributions from leading academics, this book challenges traditional PR historiography and contests the ‘lessons’ derived from existing literature to address the implications of key areas of critically engaged PR theory. This volume is a valuable teaching resource for upper-level undergraduates and postgraduates studying public relations, strategic communications, political communication and organisational communication.

    INTRODUCTION – ‘Public relations, society and the generative power of history’

    Ian Somerville, Lee Edwards and Øyvind Ihlen


    CHAPTER 1 ‘The contribution of public relations to promotional culture: taking the long view’

    Johanna Fawkes

    CHAPTER 2 ‘"Presencing" and "absencing": a deconstruction of US-based public relations textbooks'

    Jochen Hoffmann

    CHAPTER 3 ‘How employee relations shaped and maintained US coporate welfare: a historical overview'

    Patricia A. Curtin


    CHAPTER 4 ‘Wives, secretaries and bodies: representations of women in Australian public relations journal, 1965–1972'

    Kate Fitch

    CHAPTER 5 ‘History, racialisation and resistance in "post-race" public relations’

    Lee Edwards

    CHAPTER 6 ‘Intersectional activism, history and public relations: new understandings of women’s communicative roles in anti-racist and anti-sexist work'

    Jennifer Vardeman, Amanda Kennedy and Brittany Little

    CHAPTER 7 ‘Public relations in the master’s house’

    Camille Reyes

    CHAPTER 8 ‘Communicating identity histories in ethnic museum public relations’

    Melissa A. Johnson


    CHAPTER 9 ‘Selling municipal socialism: local government, the Left and the transformation of political public relations in Britain’

    Dominic Wring

    CHAPTER 10 ‘Anticipating the age of "political spin"?: an historical analysis of 1980s government communications

    Ruth Garland

    CHAPTER 11 ‘Sports promotion and the construction of "Irish" identity: nationalism, social exclusion and the Gaelic Athletic Association’

    Ian Somerville, David Mitchel and Owen Hargie

    CHAPTER 12 ‘A critical discourse analysis of Jonathan Dean Swift’s Drapier’s Letters: public advocacy and nationalism in Ireland, 1724-1725’

    Kevin Hora


    Ian Somerville is Head of the School of Media, Communication and Sociology at the University of Leicester. His research has been published in international communication, PR, politics and sociology journals and in various edited collections. His most recent book is International Public Relations: Perspectives from Deeply Divided Societies (Routledge, 2017).

    Lee Edwards is Associate Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She teaches and researches strategic communication from a critical perspective. She is the author of books, book chapters and empirical studies in the leading journals in the field of communication scholarship. 

    Øyvind Ihlen is Professor in the Department of Media and Communication at the University of Oslo and co-director of POLKOM – Centre for the Study of Political Communication. He has over 120 publications where he applies theories of rhetoric and sociology to the study of public relations. 


    'Jacquie L’Etang made important contributions to the literature on public relations history, but she never stopped with just that. Following her example, Public Relations, Society and the Generative Power of History uses historical research as the foundation for critical analysis of the industry, inviting scholars and students to engage with such key issues as power, race, gender and ideology in the study of public relations. It answers L’Etang’s call for scholars to view public relations critically, to broaden theoretical and methodological approaches, and to see public relations in its larger social, political, and cultural contexts. It expands our understanding of both contemporary and historical practices and effects and public relations scholarship is better for it.'

    Professor Karen Miller Russell, Jim Kennedy New Media Professor and Associate Professor of public relations at Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication,  University of Georgia.