Richard R. John is a historian who specializes in the history of business, technology, communications, and American political development. He teaches and advises graduate students in Columbia’s Ph.D. program in communications, and is member of the core faculty of the Columbia history department, where he teaches courses on the history of capitalism and the history of communications. His publications include many essays, eight edited books, and two monographs: Spreading the News: The American Postal System from Franklin to Morse (1995) and Network Nation: Inventing American Telecommunications (2010). In addition, he has served for many years as the editor of the Hagley Library's monograph series on "Business, Technology, and Politics" that is published by Johns Hopkins University Press.
At Columbia, John has frequently taught Contemporary Civilization, and in Fall 2020, he co-taught (with journalist Matt Stoller) an American Studies seminar on "Inequality and Democracy."
John has been a fellow at the Newberry Library in Chicago and the Smithsonian Institution's Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D. C., and has served as a visiting professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris, and has received a Guggenheim Foundation faculty fellowship. Among the institutions that have sponsored his research are the College of William and Mary, the American Antiquarian Society, and the National Endowment of the Humanities, which awarded him a faculty fellowship in 2008. Spreading the News received several national awards, including the Allan Nevins Prize from the Society of American Historians and the Herman E. Krooss Prize from the Business History Conference. Network Nation won the first Ralph Gomory Book Prize from the Business History Conference and was the 2010 Best Book in Journalism and Mass Communication History, an award bestowed by the History Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. John is a former president of the Business History Conference, an international professional society dedicated to the study of institutional history.
Between 1977 and 1989, John earned a B.A. in social studies (magna cum laude), a M.A. in history and a Ph.D. in the history of American civilization, all from Harvard University.