Agenda-setting has been a topic of study in the field of communications research for two decades. What is absent so far is an attempt to make the concept of agenda-setting useful in an historical context as well or an attempt to describe the historical dimension of the agenda-setting function of the mass media. This paper analyses a process of agenda-setting which took place more than 200 years ago. The historical event to which this concept is applied is the coverage of the American Revolution in the German press. Beginning in 1773, reports on the dispute between Britain and its colonies in America proliferated, and for several years this became the main topic reported by the Hamburg-based newspaper which is analysed here. The process of agenda-setting is first described by quantity and kind of coverage. It is then considered as a result of the course of events. On the other hand, the coverage, as far as possible given the historical context, can be considered as the cause of an effect. Four variables are determined to have influenced this effect: medium, topic, audience and political system. The great differences between the political system of Germany and that of Britain or the then emerging United States of America were the reason why the coverage in the German newspaper caused only an `agenda of the media', but had no influence on the agenda of public policy.