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.
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?