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Webs of Information: Scribal News and News Cultures around 1700

Michael Schaich

Scribal news is a rather neglected field in media and political history. Scholars interested in the transmission of news items in manuscript form have focussed primarily on the sixteeenth century, the period before the invention of the newspaper, or at best the early decades of the seventeenth century. For later periods when printed newspapers had established themselves as a vital means of communication there was seemingly no need to explore the topic further. By the turn of the eighteenth century at the latest manuscript newletters must surely have gone out of business replaced by a more modern and efficient medium.

My project challenges this teleological narrative by focusing on the long afterlife of scribal news well into the eighteenth century. Based on countless hand-written newsletters from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century that survive in archives and libraries in Britain and Germany it reconstructs the world of scribal news and also explores the relationship between manuscript and printed forms of reporting about current developments. It thus also sheds new light on the political history of the decades around 1700.

In particular it zooms in on a small group of information professionals, mostly of Huguenot descent, who worked in London and supplied a number of German princely courts and city states with up-to-date information on the political, economic and cultural affairs of Britain and the British Empire more widely. In the end, these men acted as foreign correspondents for high-ranking customers in the Holy Roman Empire.


Related Workshop:

Scribal News and News Cultures in Late Stuart and Early Georgian Britain

14 December 2018
Venues: History of Parliament Trust, 18 Bloomsbury Square, and German Historical Institute London
More information.