Friday, August 03, 2012

The history of PR, anti feminism and Aristotle

Some 1300BC there was a lot of very public correspondence between the rulers of Gaza and Egypt.

It looks to a modern eye very much like lobbying.  These are real (Handcock translated) words held in a number of museums and brought to us by the Internet Archive. They come as part of a big and ancient resource known as the Amarna letters.

I can imagine a number of PR colleagues, and not a few diplomats, paraphrasing this text even today:

Let the king know that all lands have leagued 
in hostility against me j let the king therefore care for 
his land. Behold, the territory of Gazri, the territory of 
Ashkelon, and the city of La[chish], have given them oil, 
food, and all their necessaries. Let the king therefore 
care for the troops ! Let him send troops against the 
people who have committed a crime against the king, my 
lord ! If in this year there are troops here, then will the 
land and the local ruler[s] remain to the king, my lord ; 
but if there are no troops here, then there will remain no 
lands and no local rulers to the king. 

Behold this land of Jerusalem neither my father nor 
my mother gave it to me ; the mighty hand of the king 
gave it to me. Behold, this deed is the deed of Milkilu, 
and the deed of the sons of Labaya, who have given the 
land of the king to the Habirii. Behold, king, my lord, 
I am innocent as regards the Kashi.

My question is: How old is the practice of public relations in thousands of years before  Edward Bernays? Many believe was the first public relations person and probably because he was a man and the Duchess of Devonshire (1757 – 1806) was a woman.

The Bournemouth historical initiative refuses to look at the (evidence of ancient) practice and is very focused on the words 'Public Relations'.

The nature of relationships in public and with publics is as old as the hills.

The history of public relations is very much tied up in this anti feminist and 20th century thinking  (think of examples such as 'Torches of Liberty' and 'September Morn' as opposed to the longer view.

After all it was Aristotle who wrote that it is:-
... not merely unnecessary for a king to be a philosopher, but even a disadvantage. Rather a king should take the advice of true philosophers. Then he would fill his reign with good deeds, not with good words.
(in On Kingship)

I hope that someone is preparing to go to Bournemouth with a paper that looks past a form of practice that used women to a form of practice that is more about philosophy and, thus, relationships.