SIGNS OF CIVILISATION provides an account of the rich cultural history of punctuation.
'Punctuation is not only an important part of our language code; an advanced system of punctuation has been a driving force in our entire Western Civilisation. Nothing less.'
With the invention of printing, reading books moved from being an act only performed by priests and aristocrats into an individual, even private, activity. This change helped spark the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution - in which punctuation played a crucial role. As long as texts were read out loud only by an educated elite there was no need for punctuation to mark pauses, full stops or questions.
So punctuation - the full stop, the comma, the exclamation mark, the question mark and the semicolon - helped shape modern day Europe as we know it.