1st Edition

Far From the Truth Distance, Information, and Credibility in the Early Modern World

Edited By Michiel van Groesen, Johannes Müller Copyright 2024
    276 Pages 29 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Information and knowledge were essential tools of early modern Europe’s global ambitions. This volume addresses a key concern that emerged as the competition for geopolitical influence increased: how could information from afar be trusted when there was no obvious strategy for verification? How did notions of doubt develop in relation to intercultural encounters? Who were those in the position to use misinformation in their favour, and how did this affect trust? How, in other words, did distance affect credibility, and which intellectual and epistemological strategies did early modern Europe devise to cope with this problem?

    The movement of information, and its transformations in the process of gathering, ordering, and disseminating, makes it necessary to employ both a global and a local perspective in order to understand its significance. The rise of print, leading to various new forms of mediation, played a crucial role everywhere, inspiring theories of modernization in which media served as agents of new connections and, eventually, of globalization. Paradoxically, during the entire period between 1500 and 1800, the demise of distance through various strategies of verification coincided with constructions of otherness that emphasized the cultural and geographical difference between Europe and the worlds it encountered.

    Ten leading scholars of the early modern world address the relationship between distance, information, and credibility from a variety of perspectives. This volume will be an essential companion to those interested in the history of knowledge and early modern encounters, as well as specialists in the history of empire and print culture.

    The Open Access version of this book, available at http://www.taylorfrancis.com, has been made available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives (CC-BY-NC-ND) 4.0 license.

    Introduction - Michiel van Groesen and Johannes Müller

    Distance, Credibility, and the Geographies of Information in Early Modern Europe

    Chapter 1 - Josiah Blackmore

    Reports from the Edges of Iberian Empire

    Chapter 2 - Joan-Pau Rubiés

    Distance and Credibility in Sixteenth-Century Travel Writing: Discovery, Text, and Truth in Varthema, Vespucci, and Pigafetta

    Chapter 3 - Stephanie Leitch

    Copies with Wings: Bridging Distances by Printing the Familiar in the Travel Accounts of Theodore de Bry and Levinus Hulsius

    Chapter 4 - Ricardo Padrón 

    Multitudo Insularum: The Rhetoric of Numbers and the Mapping of the Indies

    Chapter 5 - Johannes Müller

    Knowledge and Its Opposite: Antiquity, Parody, and Geographical Distance in Gabriel Rollenhagen’s Four Indian Voyages

    Chapter 6 - Michiel van Groesen

    "I Am Giving You as Much As I Have": News, Distance, and Credibility in Théophraste Renaudot’s Gazette

    Chapter 7 - Christina Brauner

    The Many Lives of African-European Treaties

    Chapter 8 - Nicholas Popper

    Joseph Williamson and the Information Order of the Early English Empire

    Chapter 9 - Renate Dürr

    Emotions as Guide to Untrustworthiness: John Lockman’s Struggle with What He Could Not Check

    Epilogue - Miles Ogborn

    Getting Closer to the Truth?



    Michiel van Groesen is Professor of Maritime History at Leiden University. His work is interdisciplinary in nature, focusing on the culture of early modern Europe’s imperial expansion and the politics of global interactions. He is the author of two books, Representations of the Overseas World in the De Bry Collection of Voyages, 1590–1634(Brill, 2008) and Amsterdam’s Atlantic: Print Culture and the Making of Dutch Brazil (Penn, 2017). He is currently completing a monograph on the circulation of news and information in the Atlantic world, which is provisionally entitled An Ocean of Rumours, and will appear with Cambridge University Press.

    Johannes Müller is an assistant professor at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society. His research focuses on environmental history, memory studies, and the history of knowledge. Among his publications are the volumes Exile Memories and the Dutch Revolt: The Narrated Diaspora, 1550–1750 (Brill, 2016), Memory before Modernity. Practices of Memory in Early Modern Europe (Brill, 2013, co-edited with Judith Pollmann, Erika Kuijpers, and Jasper van der Steen), and he is currently preparing a book manuscript on the impact of climate on fish and fisheries with marine biologist Daniel Pauly.