Anyone who could read, and was wealthy enough to afford to buy books, could gain access to the religious ideas of religious reformers and conservatives, Catholics and Protestants, whether academic or popular. Anxious governments and churches tried to retain at least some control over this movement of ideas. Yet in the end, books were able to cross national borders, and change people’s minds. Luther never visited England; yet his ideas were widely discussed in Cambridge University during the 1520s. Why? Because his books had reached England, thanks to the Hanseatic trade route.
It is widely believed that the creation of the Internet must now be ranked as a techno- logical development whose transformative potential is at least equal to that of printing. And just as printing changed Christianity, so the Internet is having a deep impact on the shaping of popular Christianity in the twenty-first century.
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The technical foundations on which the Internet would be based were established during the 1950s, as it became clear that the technology to allow computers to communi- cate with each other was in the process of emerging. The Internet began as a research project commissioned by the US Defense Department in the 1970s which would allow it to link its computers across different military bases. As the research progressed, the Internet expanded beyond the control of the US Defense Department, linking many major universities. Slowly, corporate organizations realized the value of Internet and adopted it as a means of communicating and developing their corporate culture and marketing. However, it was in the mid-1990s that the Internet became widely available as a means of allowing com- munication, with massive implications for the transformation of culture.