The end of July saw our final symposium on the history of news – three days of papers, discussion and of course the best news-themed cakes. You can get a breakdown of the days’ events through our Storify, aimed at preserving the discussion, recapping the day and pooling useful links; as Cultures of Knowledge (@cofktweets) tweeted: ‘like a conference report, but a real-time, living, collaborative one. And with more cakes’. Email me if you’d like to add more links to resources mentioned in your paper, or additional comments.

View the story “News and the Shape of Europe, 1500-1750” on Storify

With thanks to the Leverhulme Trust, Queen Mary, University of London, the News Networks members, and all our delegates.


News and the Shape of Europe, 1500-1750

Conference at Queen Mary, University of London, 26-28th July 2013

Registration open:

Join us this July for the final event in the News Networks calendar: a three-day symposium on ‘News and the Shape of Europe, 1500-1750’.  This major news history event will feature 40 speakers from across Europe and the Americas, and will contribute to a new pan-European history of news, which has been the driving force behind and ultimate aim of the Leverhulme international network, News Networks in Early Modern Europe.

How did news cross Europe, and how did news make Europe? News in early modern Europe was a distinctively transnational phenomenon; its topics were international in scope; the forms and terminologies of news, as well as the news itself, crossed national boundaries; practices of news-gathering relied on networks of international agents; it was widely translated; it travelled along commercial routes, or through postal networks that were designed to be mutually connected; and the forces attempting to control the press operated (or attempted to operate) well outside of their actual jurisdiction. The spread of news and the appetite for it reflect changes in the geopolitical and confessional maps of Europe, spreading through ethnic and religious diasporas as well as diplomatic, mercantile, and scholarly networks. It helped forge communities on a local, national and international scale.

‘News and the Shape of Europe, 1500-1750’ will explore ways in which this history – history on a grand scale, and grounded in uncharted landscapes of evidence – can be written.

Topics covered include the languages, geographies, forms and infrastructures of early modern European news; reflections on the state of current research in the history of news communication, and methodological reflections on how to conceptualise networks in the context of news; and a number of case studies of particular axes, innovations, and problems in news transmission, spanning the full breadth of early modern Europe.

Speakers include Ruth Ahnert, Nadine Akkerman, Lloyd Bowen, Nicholas Brownlees, Paul Arblaster, André Belo, Brendan Dooley, Carmen Espejo, Stéphane Haffemayer, Helmer Helmers, Mario Infelise, Angela McShane, Paul Nelles, Jason Peacey, Joad Raymond, Lena Steveker, and many more.


You can register directly at our e-shop, here. The registration fee includes refreshments, lunches by high quality local caterers (Vietnamese, Turkish and Jewish cuisine), and, of course, plenty of cake to keep your sugar levels up during the papers! Please let us know if you have special dietary requirements. You can also sign up for the conference dinner on the Saturday evening, at the excellent price of £25.

Standard: £125 for 3 days; £100 for 2 days; £50 for 1 day

Graduate students/unwaged: £75 for 3 days; £60 for 2 days; £30 for 1 day

University of London graduate students: £30 for 3 days; £20 for 2 days; £10 for 1 day

Queen Mary staff and students: free

Conference Programme

You can see the conference programme here. It is also copied below this post.


The Octagon, Queens Building, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS

Other details

If you have any queries, please contact Lizzy Williamson at Look at our events page for suggestions on accommodation.

Please tweet, blog and spread the word, and we look forward to seeing you there!


News and the Shape of Europe – Conference Schedule

Day 1: Friday 26th July 2013

8:45-9:15 Registration

The Octagon, Queen Mary, University of London

9:30-11:00 Session 1 – News Networks – Methods and Challenges

– Brendan Dooley (University College Cork) – International news flows in the Seventeenth Century – problems and prospects

– Javier Diaz Noci (Pompeu Fabra) – Gazeta da Amsterdam: A discourse and content analysis of the first Jewish newspaper, 1675-1690

– Nicholas Brownlees (Florence) – “Newes also came by Letters”: a corpus-based analysis of the function of “Letters” in the transmission of news in seventeenth-century England

11:15-12:45 Session 2: Forms and Genres (1) – Innovation in Print

– Helmer Helmers (Amsterdam) – The Theatre of Europe: the Thirty Years War and the development of Dutch news genres

– Jan Hillgaertner (Erlangen-Nuremberg/St Andrews) – Meeting the reader’s expectations: the design of early printed newspapers (1605-1680)

– Lena Steveker (Saarbruecken) – Sensational News and Political Polemic: Reporting monstrous births in Royalist pamphlets, 1640-1660

LUNCH 12:45-14:00

14:00-15:30 Session 3: Geographies (1) – Envisaging Europe

Angela McShane (Victoria & Albert Museum, London) – A view from the street: mapping the geographies of the political world in C17th broadside ballads

– Joop Koopmans (Groningen) – A sense of Europe? The European atmosphere in early modern Dutch media

– Sara Barker (Exeter) – Time in English translations of Continental News

15:45-17:15 Session 4: Themes  (1) – War

– Corinna Streckfuss (Oxford) – Habsburg Reports’ vs. ‘Valois Poems’? The use of news as propaganda at the end of the Italian Wars (1556-9)

– Alexander Buczynski (Croatian Institute of History, Zagreb) – War reporting on Croats and Pandours under the (in)famous Col. Trenck in newspapers of the 1740s

– Davide Boerio (Naples) – The ‘troubles of Naples’ in an English Civil War newsbook

Day 2: Saturday 27th July 2013

9:00-10:30 – Session 5: Networks (2) – Theorising Networks

– Ruth Ahnert (QMUL) – A network perspective of news communication

– Johann Petitjean (Panthéon-Sorbonne) – A news world: reflections on information’s spatiality in the Avvisi

– Joad Raymond (QMUL) – News Networks: Putting the ‘news’ and ‘networks’ back in

10:45-12:15 Session 6: Forms and Genres (2) – Avvisi Networks

Carmen Espejo (Seville) – The first Spanish gazette: Gazeta de Roma in Valencia (1618-1620). A critique of periodicity in Modern Age journalism. Co-authored with Francisco Baena (Seville)

– Massimo Petta (Independent) – War news in Milan: from Negroponte to Vienna, or the birth and the shaping of avvisi as a network medium

Mario Infelise (Venice) – The spread of news in Europe (XVI-XVII centuries): a proposal for periodisation

LUNCH 12:15-13:30

13:30-1500 Session 7: Geographies (2) – Transmission

– Nadine Akkerman (Leiden) – ‘The Postmistress of Brussels’: Alexandrine of Taxis and postal networks

– Nikolaus Schobesberger (Vienna) – Mapping the Fuggerzeitungen – the geographical issues of an information network

– Alexandra Schafer (Mainz) – Messires, what newes of Fraunce can you tell?’ News transfer about the French Wars of Religion from France to the Holy Roman Empire

15:15-16:45 Session 8: Themes (2) – Politics and Religion

– Marcus Nevitt (Sheffield) – News from Westminster and other places: Royalist satire and European news reporting in revolutionary England

– Nina Lamal (KU Leuven) – Promoting the Catholic cause on the Italian peninsula: Printed news reports on the religious and civil wars in France and in the Low Countries (1562-1600)

– Lloyd Bowen (Cardiff) – News, language and political culture in early modern Wales

17:00-18:30 Session 9 – Themes (3)- Diplomacy

– Jason Peacey (UCL) – My friend the gazetier: news and diplomacy in 17th-century Europe

– Rachael Scarborough King (NYU) – British diplomacy and the first ‘foregin correspondents’, 1695-1740

– Samuli Kaislaniemi (Helsinki) – Intelligence networks, diplomatic post, and the transmission of news between Spain and England 1600-1610


Day 3 – Sunday 28th July, 2013

9:30-11:00 Session 10: Networks (3) – Case Studies:

– André Belo (Rennes) – ‘A Portuguese network in exile through the news of the ‘calabrese’ king Sebastian (1598-1603)’

– Stéphane Haffemayer (Caen) – International networks of news published in France in the 1680s

– Paul Nelles (Carleton) – Jesuit news and Jesuit networks in 16th-century Europe

11:15-12:45 Session 11: Forms and Genres (3) – Case Studies

– Carlos Caracciolo (National Institute for Geophysics and Vulcanology, Bologna) – News Networks and the system of information in early modern Bologna

Sophie Pitman (Bard) – Dolled Up: The dissemination of knowledge of national dress and foreign fashions in Renaissance Europe

– Jorge Pedro Sousa & Patricia Teixera (Fernando Pessoa) – “Journalism” in Early Modern Portugal: from occasional “news-books” to the periodical “news-papers”

12:45-14:00 – LUNCH

14:00-15:30 Session 12: Geographies (3) – War

– Virginia Dillon (Oxford) – The effect of changing reporting systems on the news networks of Transylvania, 1619-1658

– Emilie Dosquet (Panthéon-Sorbonne) – “We have been informed that the French are carrying Desolation everywhere”: the Devastation of the Palatinate as European News Event in Print (1688-1689)

– Kirsty Rolfe (QMUL) – It is no time now to enquire of forraine occurrents’: plague, war and rumour in the letters of Joseph Mead, 1625

15:45-17:15 Session 13: Themes (3) – News Agents

– Noah Moxham (St Andrews) – The work of a news supplier – Taylor’s coffee-house account book, 1701-1710

Lizzy Williamson (QMUL) – ‘Fishing for news’, or the ars apodemica: the role of the gentleman traveller in 16th-century intelligence networks

Paul Arblaster (Zuyd, Maastricht) – The Republic of Letters and the Europe of Print

St Valentine, Patron of copulation

On 14 February 1646 — towards the end of the civil war — the London weekly newspaper The True Informer published the following editorial:

Episcopacy being abolished,* I see no reason why this day in which this book is extant, should be honoured in the commemoration of Bishop Valentine, or by what anomalous power of the Church of Rome, he should be made the Patron of copulation; there is no doubt but he was a Bishop, & I am afraid a very wanton one, for otherwise why should that lusty heat which in this pregnant season, make proud the blood, receive from his not only an allowance, but protection: Surely if his condition were correspondent to his title, everie piece of paper which the petulant youth weare this day in their hats, and every little scroule which the bashfull and conscious Virgins keep more concealed under their cuffe, are all but libells against his Gravity, whatsoever Epitome that custome heretofore have had I do believe the practice idle and unlawfull, yet peradventure as the Swedes will allow none to sell ale, or to keep such houses of hospitality, but unlesse such who serve their Ministers, because that by their neglect of sordid gaine, and the civility of their conversation they should give good examples unto others; so Antiquitie of Superstition, made this Bishop provident of this day, that in the remembrance of the excellence of his continence, and the severity of his life he might correct the fires and distempers of youth, which otherwise would be too unbridled and licentious; but of this enough …

[* the editor was jumping the gun: in fact the English Parliament would not formally abolish the episcopal system of church government by bishops until October 1646]

This facetious commentary on the role of the “Patron of copulation” (a nice phrase) explores a series of ironies. We aren’t really meant to believe that there is much chance of a bishop setting a good example to the youth, so the suggestion that St Valentines’ is a day of licensed licentiousness, which takes the edge off unbridled libidinousness, comments facetiously both on romantic conduct on that day and on the morality of Bishops. I wonder if there’s anything as rich in this morning’s papers.

It is an interesting and instructive example of the use of the newspaper for social commentary in the first half of the seventeenth century and of the simultaneous use of the newspaper for entertainment and humour.

Early Modern News Networks in Paris, May 2012

News Networks in Early Modern Europe will have its second meeting in Paris from the 9th to the 11th of May.  In addition to the network’s core membership, confirmed participants so far include Professor Stéphane Haffemayer (Université de Caen and the Centre de Recherche d’Histoire Quantitative), Dr Johann Petitjean (Ecole Française de Rome) and Marion Brétéché (Paris IV-Sorbonne, and a member of the Groupe de Recherches Interdisciplinaires sur l’Histoire du Littéraire – GRIHL).

Discussions and presentations at the Antwerp workshop in November focussed on the validity of prevailing models for describing the spread and regulation of European news.   Were either the putative efficacy of censorship in southern Europe, or the relative freedom of the press enjoyed in the Protestant north, quite what they have been supposed to be? Carmen Espejo tackled this question in its European aspects, while Paul Arblaster examined it through the varieties of forms and uses of news, its intersection with commercial practices, the regulation of trade routes, and local politics and inter-city relations in the Spanish Netherlands.  Other questions touched on, in attempting to address issues of how to define early modern news, included the various national and cultural origins of news (as proclamations, commercial information, espionage, entertainment, and propaganda); the varieties of use to which news was put; the social construction of those uses;  and what happens to news once it has ceased to be new; and how foreign news was reported across national borders.

Picking up from these questions, the Paris workshop will be organised around the theme of how news travelled across linguistic, confessional, geographical and geopolitical boundaries.  As well as considering the modes of transmission and the networks that made these movements possible, we will examine the transformations news underwent as it was translated and appropriated into other contexts; the origins and developing uses of the terminologies of early modern news and journalism in the project’s various languages; the social differences between types of news media; and the case of Paris as an instance of an early modern entrepôt, in which news was produced, printed, transmitted onwards, controlled and restricted.   Watch this space for more news of what promises to be a fascinating event – and please get in touch if you have any queries or suggestions for us!

The European newspaper?

What is a newspaper? What is Europe?

These are thorny, and potentially interlinked questions. We know what a newspaper is in its modern form — though it can be surprisingly hard to articulate the implicit knowledge that shapes our expectations of newspapers and instructs us in how to read them — but the nature and role of printed news in earlier societies is harder to establish.

Harder, because the definitional criteria we use do not always mesh perfectly with the historical facts, or the stories that we tell about early printed news. We might propose, for example, that a transhistorical definition of the newspaper would rely on at least the seven following criteria:
1. regular periodicity (i.e. exact frequency of publication, whether that is daily or weekly)
2. seriality (several issues appearing separately, each intended to follow on from the previous)
3. numbering — seriality has to be indicated typographically to assist in consecutive purchasing and collecting. This also implies:
4. continuity in physical appearance and title
5. a heterogeneity of news, from different sources (perhaps including both foreign and home news)
6. topicality of content
7. publication (i.e. making available to the public, not exclusively by printing).
These criteria for form and content represent one possible, minimal definition of the newspaper. An eighth, possible criterion, though it may be no more than a description of a tendency, is that the newspaper must contain some admixture of three kinds of content: news, advertising, and editorial. These criteria would provide a reasonable basis for a rigorous account of the history of early printed news.

But these bare formal criteria, though (fairly) uncontentious in themselves, begin to come under strain when tested against the sheer breadth and multiplicity of contexts in which early modern newsprint emerged and upon which it acted. The history of news, written by practitioners in various European countries, wrestles with such criteria, and bends them to tell a better story, a story that then begins to twist the evidence in favour of clear milestones. Who wants a history full of qualification and muddy waters?

Historians of news are confronted by problems of scale as well as definition. Thomas Carlyle wrote (in the 1840s) of the superabundance of pamphlets and news and printed evidence that the C17th bequeathed to research libraries: “Dreariest continent of shot-rubbish the eye ever saw. Confusion piled on confusion to your utmost horizon’s edge: obscure, in lurid twilight as the shadow of Death; trackless, without index, without finger-post, or mark of any human foregoer;—where your human footstep, if you are still human, echoes bodeful through the gaunt solitude, peopled only by somnambulent Pedants, Dilettants, and doleful creatures, by Phantasms, errors, inconceivabilities, by Nightmares, pasteboard Norroys, griffins, wiverns, and chimeras dire! There, all vanquished, overwhelmed under such waste lumber-mountains, the wreck and dead ashes of some six unbelieving generations, does the Age of Cromwell and his Puritans lie hidden from us.”

In order to fit with modern historiographical standards the history of news must be written with a keen eye to evidence, not only the evidence of surviving printed items, but printing house practices, distribution methods, the commercial rationale, manuscript news, oral traditions, reading and listening practices, etc. etc. Because printed news touches upon so many elements of society and everyday life, because its history is so interconnected with other histories, it needs to be reconstructed minutely and meticulously. And yet printed news, as it is understood today, plays an important role in the emergence of nations, of the public sphere and public opinion, of national identity, of democracy; and so it needs to be written from a geographically and socially broad perspective, and over the longue durée. Newspaper historians must be both foxes and hedgehogs, in the dichotomy of Archilochus, knowing both many things and one big thing.

The problem is exacerbated from a European perspective. Between 1500 and 1700, European countries developed new means of producing and distributing news. These news media depended on communication that crossed linguistic, religious and geopolitical boundaries. Emergent forms of news were crucial to the modernization of European states, the appearance of modern politics, the evolution of discrete identities, and the development of national consciousness. Histories of news have almost exclusively been written from national perspectives; yet the emergence of news media took place across Europe, and in every nation the news media was closely intertwined with pan-European channels of communication, international trade networks, and war. Newspaper historians must recognize the inter- and transnational nature of newspapers; yet to do so, and to do so with the necessary scholarly intensity and evidentiary integrity lies beyond the capacity of an individual.

The Early Modern News Networks project — based at the University of East Anglia, but involving scholars from across Europe, and funded by the generous support of the Leverhulme Trust — seeks to resolve some of these issues of history and method. We seek to explore ways of writing this history collectively and collaboratively. The network of scholars will examine the movement of news across Europe, the forms it took, the routes it followed and the speed and accuracy of transmission, and how it was transformed as it moved between cultures, languages and religions, and by doing so pursue methods for understanding news and news networks in a pan-European context. In this blog we will look at some of the issues, present some of our findings, discuss topical issues through the perspective of the past, ask questions about the nature of news and of Europe, and hope to stimulate discussion of the role of news in early-modern Europe. Let us know if there is anything you would like to see.

It is a pressing project. Just as Europe made news networks, news networks made Europe. Europe was an idea, shaped by war, trade, languages, religions, and by communication. Today Europe — in the distinctive shape and nature that it has assumed since the Second World War — is imperilled. The increasingly formalised economic and legal ties that began with the creation of the European Economic Community and resulted in monetary union are threatened by the actions of a number of under-regulated financial institutions and individuals. Yet beyond these economic and legal frameworks, Europe has an identity that lies in the communicative networks that began centuries before Immanuel Kant’s Perpetual Peace (1795) and the League of Nations (1920): one answer to the question ‘What is Europe?’ lies in the history of news.


Antwerp Meeting

The Plantin-Moretus Museum in Antwerp will play host to the first meeting of News Networks in Early Modern Europe.  (We’re very grateful to the Museum for making their facilities available to us, and giving us such a fitting backdrop to our research.)  As well as papers from network members, including Carmen Espejo and Paul Arblaster, the workshop will feature contributions from the first of many network associates, including Professor Andrew Pettegree, of the University of St. Andrews, and Dr Helmer Helmers, of the Universities of Leiden and Amsterdam.

This is the first of a series of five workshops to be held over the next eighteen months, thematically organised around a loose progression from the general issues surrounding the histories of news and newspapers in early modern Europe, to particular case studies of specific channels of news transmission, sites of news production, and news events.  The Antwerp meeting will be organised around discussions of media and methods, including questions of definition (what constitutes newsprint in the period?), existing approaches and pitfalls in the history of news, and locality.  More details, and news of additional contributors, to follow…

Early Modern News Networks

Welcome to Early Modern News Networks, a blog featuring events, updates and matters of interest arising from the Leverhulme-funded project “News Networks in Early Modern Europe”.  The project brings together its own network of five leading scholars of early modern news culture from across the continent to establish new approaches to the study of news networks, their formation and their functioning, that will lay the foundations for a methodologically coherent European history of news and newspapers.

Participating in the network are:

Professor Joad Raymond (University of East Anglia)

Dr Paul Arblaster (Zuyd University, Maastricht)

Dr André Belo (Université Rennes 2)

Professor Carmen Espejo (Universidad de Sevilla)

Professor Mario Infelise (Universita Ca’ Foscari Venezia)

The project will also feature contributions from guests and associates at its various meetings over the next two years; the network will hold a series of workshops in five European cities, each an important centre of early modern news production and distribution, culminating in an open symposium in London in the summer of 2013.  The first meeting of the group takes place in Antwerp in November, and the project website is currently under construction.  Watch this space for news and announcements!