Information, correspondence and record-keeping
in micro and global perspectives
University of Oxford
19-20 September 2019
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This is the last of a series of three AHRC workshops that have explored the potential for a fruitful combination of microhistory and global history. Information lay at the heart of narratives of global connectedness. From the information practices of merchants and missionary orders to the correspondence networks of scholars and diplomats, diverse modes of communication contributed in important ways to the ‘world-making’ of the early modern period. And yet, global historians have only recently started to consider the methods and approaches they use to make sense of the wide variety of sources produced by these information flows. In part, this may reflect something of the diversity of practices at play within global history today. Where some regard global history as a forum for writing large-scale syntheses based mainly on secondary literature, other scholars have insisted that global history must preserve a close engagement with philology, local context and, above all, primary sources at its core. Getting back to basics, this workshop explores a series of questions related to the study of information, correspondence and record-keeping in the early modern world. What are the archives of global history? How might different approaches to the study of information change our understanding of certain themes in global history like circulation, connectedness, and mobility? What does a view of empires look like when viewed through the prism of information and correspondence networks? What does a microhistorical approach to the study of information offer to our understanding of wider processes of religious and political change in this period? What new perspectives on locality, empire, and information can we bring through micro and macro analysis of our sources—written, visual, material, or otherwise? In our workshop, we will explore global history and microhistory through the prism of communication and information. We will do so with a view towards engaging with other fields that have thought purposefully about related issues of scale, for example literary history, the history of the book, and economic history. Papers will cover a wide range of topics related to data, information and communication in all its glorious forms: images and visual culture, letter-writing and correspondence networks, the history of archives and information management, oral and written cultures, the study of objects, cartography, and diverse forms of record-keeping including accounting, inventories and lists. Speakers are all encouraged to explore their particular subjects through various scales of analysis, micro, macro, and everything in between.
Speakers include: James Amelang (Madrid), Zoltán Biedermann (Birkbeck), Daniela Bleichmar (USC), Susannah Burghartz (Basel), Filippo de Vivo (Birkbeck), Jan de Vries (Berkeley), Dagmar Freist (Oldenburg), Anne Gerritsen (Warwick), Giuseppe Marcocci (Oxford), Adam Smyth (Oxford), Paolo Sartori (Austrian Academy of Sciences).