To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Writing PR history: issues, methods and politics

Jacquie L'Etang (Stirling Media Research Institute, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK)

Journal of Communication Management

ISSN: 1363-254X

Article publication date: 14 November 2008




The purpose of this paper is to argue that public relations (PR) history‐writing has profoundly shaped the discipline and that its US bias may have limited theoretical developments. The author aims to explore the challenges in writing PR history and to consider some of the strategic philosophical issues and challenges that face historians.


Historical interpretations are shaped by authors' social constructions and thus the paper is written reflexively. The author discusses the way in which histories are structured and patterned by their authors' assumptions and values about the nature of time; human civilisation, progressivism, situationalism, inevitability, human agency, cultural change, flux and transformation.


Existing (largely US) PR historical writing is analysed in terms of its theoretical impact through the “four models” and it is argued that this typology is not appropriately applied to other cultures with different paths of historical evolution. As a way of demonstrating this point, key aspects of British developments in the twentieth century are drawn out to reveal a dozen “models” of PR practice that could potentially form the basis of theoretical research.


Overall, the paper contributes a discussion of historical methodology in relation to PR; shows the connection between history and theory‐building in PR; and demonstrates that history from other cultures can reveal alternative models for theoretical development.



L'Etang, J. (2008), "Writing PR history: issues, methods and politics", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 319-335.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles