Paper is today so ubiquitous that we often overlook it. Yet paper was once a brand-new communications technology and political tool that fundamentally influenced early modern political life in myriad ways. The revolutionary effects of paper on European politics and political communications are strikingly visible from the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries onwards.
Although scholars of early modern politics and political communications depend upon paper as a building-block of their craft, we still know too little about the paper upon which early modern princes, statesmen, diplomats, secretaries, archivists, informers, spies, smugglers, couriers, postmasters, stationers, or newswriters depended. To paraphrase paperwork ethnologist Ben Kafka, historians have tended to look through paper, at how it can be used to reconstruct events or epistemic processes, but rarely at it, as a material artifact and communications technology around which coherent historical practices developed.
This two-day conference seeks to bring together scholars and paper experts working across a range of disciplines and geographic areas who are interested in the ways in which paper supported, shaped, or otherwise influenced practices of politics and political communications in the period ca.1350-ca.1800. It aims to sketch a more integral picture of the ways in which paper permitted early modern politics and political communications to unfold.
This conference is part of the four-year research project 'Paper Princes: Paper in Early Modern Diplomacy and Statecraft', conducted by Dr. Megan K. Williams of the University of Groningen and funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). For more on the project see rug.nl/staff/m.k.williams or the project website, paperprinces.org.