Project Description: The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Peiresc

The thousand or so letters written by Peiresc to merchants, ships captains, missionaries, diplomats and individual travellers constitute a unique trove of documentation on the Mediterranean in the 1620s and 30s—and likely applicable to the decades earlier and later, as well. Moreover, from a historiographical point of view, they allow us to employ private communications in a private archive to seek out information on the structure of communications that has hitherto been found, and sought, only in large public archives. In short, Peiresc’s archive, and this part of it in particular, allows us to experiment in wedding to seventeenth-century material the questions of Braudel and Goitein. The result, interesting in itself for our knowledge of things like shipping times, quarantine regulations, profit margins and financing, also suggests a model for what a ‘material culture of cultural history’ could look like.

A lecture-length précis of this project was presented at Thalassography & Historiography in the Twenty-First Century. A Symposium at the Bard Graduate Center, 19-20 October 2009.

Some preliminary essays dealing with this theme have been published in collections focusing on European and specifically Mediterranean networks.

I prepared an application for an NEH Start-up Grant that uses this the material to craft a “digital monograph”. The project emerged from conversations at the BGC but then with valuable contributions from Lisa Straussfeld (Pentagram) and Dan Edelstein (Stanford). The NEH did not fund this project, nor did the ACLS, so it is currently in mothballs.

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