Old vs. new media: handwritten newsletters in the first age of the printed newspaper 01/10/2017 - 30/09/2020


This project investigates the co-existence of old and new media in the pre-modern age. To understand how old and new communication technology shaped societies in the past is particularly relevant given current debates on the societal impact of digital technology and new social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. This project studies how and why handwritten newsletters continued to exist alongside printed newspapers in the seventeenthcentury Dutch Republic, Habsburg Netherlands and France. Before the birth of the printed newspaper, handwritten news-sheets copied by professional scribes were essential in reporting current-affairs. Scholars generally describe these handwritten newsletters as mere predecessors of the printed newspaper and assume they were quickly replaced by their printed counterparts. This project counters this persistent historical narrative by analysing the mutual influence of manuscript and printed newspaper at a moment when their impact on politics and society was not yet firmly established. It is the first in-depth study to specifically consider their role within the wider changing media landscape of the seventeenth century. The project will provide an interconnected history of communication across linguistic, technological, and political boundaries, and shed new light on the impact of new communication technologies on politics and society.


Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project