& the GII
Aust & NZ
Aust & NZ
Aust & NZ
This note considers postal services, a point of reference
for considering telecommunication economics, network regulation
and the governance of cyberspace.
It covers -
- the history of postal services from the 1840s through
to separation from telecommunication services, corporatisation
and contemporary debate about privatisation and competition.
- regulatory aspects of postal services, including their
status as monopoly service providers and their handling
of privacy, censorship, security and other questions
over the past 150 years.
- the rise and fall of postal banks.
- the business of delivering things, alive and well
despite claims that snailmail would soon go the way
of the dodo
- questions about privatisation of postal services and
organisations in the UK, Japan and elsewhere
- a chronology of postal services.
supplements discussion elsewhere on this site regarding
postal privacy, censorship, offences such as defamation
and stalking, messaging and network privatisation.
Government postal services offer a lens for understanding
the emergence of contemporary large-scale enterprises,
changing perceptions of the state and expectations about
the regulation of communications within and across borders.
Adoption of email (and electronic junkmail) has not lead
to the death of the postal service and appears unlikely
to do so in the near future, instead reinforcing moves
to enhance the efficiency of existing postal operations.
A starting point is provided by Andrew Odlyzko's cogentThe
history of communications and its implications for the
For the UK see in particular Michael Daunton's Royal
Mail: The Post Office Since 1840 (London: Athlone
Press 1985) and Kenneth Ellis' The Post Office in
the Eighteenth Century: A Study in Administrative History
(New York: Oxford Uni Press 1958), superseding Howard
Robinson's The British Post Office: A History
(Princeton: Princeton Uni Press 1948). There is a more
popular account in Getting the Message: The Story
of the British Post Office (Stroud: Alan Sutton 1993)
by Christopher Browne.
Accounts of the US system include News In The Mail:
The Press, Post Office & Public Information (Westport:
Greenwood Press 1989) by Richard Kielbowicz, US Mail:
The Story of the United States Postal Service (New
York: Holt Rinehart Winston 1960) by Arthur Summerfield,
Wayne Fuller's The American Mails, Enlarger of the
Common Life (Chicago: Uni of Chicago Press 1972)
and A Short History of the Mail Service (Washington:
Smithsonian Institute Press 1970) by Carl Scheele. Older
works on the US include Ross McReynolds' History of
the United States Post Office, 1607-1931 (Chicago:
Uni of Chicago 1935), Edward Daniel's United States
Postal Service & Postal Policy, 1789-1860 (Cambridge:
Harvard Uni Press 1941), Wesley Rich's The History
of the United States Post Office to the Year 1829
(Cambridge: Harvard Uni Press 1924) and William Smith's
The History of the Post Office in British North America,
1639-1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 1920).
The major study of the UPU - and indeed of international
coordination - remains George Codding's The Universal
Postal Union: Coordinator of the International Mails
(New York: New York Uni Press 1964).
The literature on different services and delivery mechanisms
is uneven. Recommended works include Donald Holmes' Airmail:
An Illustrated History, 1791-1981 (New York: Potter
1981), Richard Carline's Pictures in the Post: the
Story of the Picture Postcard (London: Gordon Fraser
1971) and Frank Staff's The Picture Postcard and its
Origins (London: Lutterworth 1979).
For philately see Dennis Altman's Paper Ambassadors:
The Politics of Stamps (London: Collins 1990) and
Matthew Bowyer's They Carried the Mail: A Survey of
Postal History and Hobbies (New York: Robert Luce
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