History of Public Speaking

History of public speaking for the last 5 millenia.

Speeches & Toasts Delivered in Minutes

The history of public speaking extends back to the beginning of the human race! The first known book about public speaking was written about 4500 years before this website existed. Circa 2400 B.C. a Pharoah named Ptahhotep wrote on "fair speaking." Since then, public speaking has developed with each new culture and means of communication. Here's an abridged time line of the history of public speaking.

  • 2400 BC Ptahhotep writes of "fair speaking."
  • 106-43 BC Life of Marcus Tullius Cicero, Rome's greatest orator. Among his works are De Inventione (concerning argument composition) and De Oratore (concerning oratory).
  • 1775 AD Patrick Henry triumphs the cause of freedom with his famous phrase, "Give me liberty, or give me death!"
  • 1863 AD Abraham Lincoln gives the "Gettysburg Address."
  • 1916 AD First continuous radio broadcast from Tufts University, setting the stage for the first speeches to mass non-present audiences.
  • 1928 AD First regularly scheduled television service begins, ushering in communication through visual technology.
  • 1963 AD Martin Luther King delivers his "I Have A Dream" speech, calling for the end of racism in America.
  • 1980's AD First private internet service providers started. Internet boomed around the world in the 1990's, beginning a new era of mass communication.
  • 2005 AD YouTube service begins, allowing amature speakers wide exposure and popularity. Since that time, public speakers from political candidates to professional comedians have used YouTube and other online video sharing services to spread their message.

This is far from a complete list. Both Winston Churchill, Ronald Reagan, and others gave speeches that changed the world. Speech-wise, we've included only the most quoted speeches and left off some very influential orators. If you have suggestions for important events that should be on this time line, particularly events not centered in the Western world, feel free to let us know using the general contact form. Happy speaking!

Speeches & Toasts Delivered in Minutes

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