The Material Letter (Daybell)Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz
The sources documenting premodern conflicts have a specific materiality. Sometimes they are council books, sometimes legal proceedings or reports from embassies and meetings. Yet very often, they are letters.
In today’s #RetroConflictsInspirations, we take a look at ‘The Material Letter in early modern England’ (2012) by @JamesDaybell. He draws attention to interesting choices in letter writing: tools, conventions, ways of posting letters, keeping them (partially) secret or copying them. These were certainly not random, but instead all constituted a thoughtful part of the communication. The focus in the book is primarily on letters in diplomatic (elite) exchange or in connection to military operations in England, but the observations are just as applicable to mercantile letters and correspondence between city councils. For instance, we can add that cryptography occurred also in the Hanse area. Around 1558, a Hanseatic father provided his son with a code where the English Queen Mary, the Reichskammergericht and the Polish King were referred to in symbols. While not as common yet as in diplomatic exchanges and in later times, such peeks from sources show that Hansards were aware of the epistolary possibilities.