Inventions 4 – The printing press

Enquiry: What was the most significant invention pre-1500?

Before you start find your three R cards from Inventions 1.

How significant was the invention of the printing press?

What was the printing press?
The Gutenberg printing press – invented in the 1440s by Johannes Gutenberg, a goldsmith from Mainz in Germany – is widely considered to be one of humanity’s defining inventions. Gutenberg figured out how to make large quantities of durable metal type and how to fix that type firmly enough to print hundreds of copies of a page, yet flexibly enough that the type could be reused to print an entirely different page. It enabled the mass production of books and the rapid dissemination of knowledge throughout Europe. However, the history of printing begins long before Gutenberg’s time.

TASK 1: How has the invention of the printing press impacted on you?

  1. Write a list of all the times you have read a printed text in the last week.
  2. On a scale of 0 (no important) to 10 (very important) how important is printed text to you? Why?

TASK 2: Was the printing press the machine that made us?

  1. Watch the documentary by Stephen Fry on the printing press. It lasts 1 hour.
  2. Whilst you are watching it complete the following table – aim for at least four points for each side.

The printing press was is an important invention

The printing press was not an important invention

TASK 3: How significant was the invention of the printing press?

  1. Based on Task Two do you think the invention of the printing press was significant?
    Find evidence in your table to prove the invention of printing press was significant.
    Highlight evidence that proves it was remarkable, remembered and resulted in change.

Click here here for the 3 Rs

Remarkable: at the time or since
Worthy of attention, amazing

Remembered: it was important to a group of people
People have not forgotten it

Resulted in change: had consequences for the future
It led to other things happening

TASK 4: Write one paragraph for a historical journal on the significance of the invention of the printing press
You must include:
* your opinion on the significance of the printing press
* historical terminology – the 3 R’s
* specific evidence

Need more help? Click on the help zone

Write your journal entry using a PEEL paragraph. This will make sure your opinion is expressed clearly and supported with evidence.

POINT: make your point. Was it significant?
The evidence shows that the invention of the printing press was …

EVIDENCE: support your point with facts and examples.
This is clearly shown by its impact on …

EXPLAIN: how your evidence supports your point.
Here use the 3 Rs – remember, remarkable, resulted in change.

LINK: back to the main point.
Overall, it is clear that printing press had a …

Well done. You have completed your learning.


Think about how information is shared in the present day
– Social Media e.g. Twitter, Facebook …,
– News apps e.g. BBC News
– Television e.g. News, documentaries,
– Radio
– Podcasts

C1: Do you think any of these were more important than the printing press? Why?
C2: The printing press freed authors at the time from the Church. What has social media freed authors from today?
C3: Do the risks of fake news out weigh the positives of the freedoms social media give authors?