Balancing Openness and Closure in early modern correspondence networks (UCLDH, 6 March 2019)

UCLDH seminar

5:30 pm to 6:30 pm, 06 March 2019

This presentation uses computational techniques developed by social network scientists to reconstruct and analyse the epistolary relations between the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Dutch Republic in the seventeenth century. The lively epistolary exchange between these two societies allows for a comprehensive view on the transconfessional Republic of Letters, providing a framework to study the ways in which early modern scholars capitalised on opportunities in the social structure to which they were connected. Specifically, the differences between these two societies might have influenced the decisions Italian and Dutch scholars had to make in the formation of their network, as well as the strategies they adopted to secure their position therein.

On the one hand, they needed to have access to innovative information and resources. This means that they needed to become involved with scholars from outside their own circle of trust, reaching out to others who could provide them with new information and recently published books. On the other hand, they needed to guarantee that their network was secure and trustworthy – especially in light of the many tensions imposed by the Inquisition. Hence, they needed to strategically negotiate between openness and closure in their network.

It is the intent of this lecture to illustrate how to model historical networks to shed light on these dynamics of openness and closure. As the number of online letter archives keeps growing, it is time to take full advantage of this ever-extending database and to discover how computational approaches can advance the study of early modern correspondence. Ingeborg will first explain how we can transform these datasets into a model that we can use to run algorithms on. In particular, we will see a network modelled by using two digital repositories, the Catalogus Epistularum Neerlandicarum (a national union catalogue of letters held in various Dutch libraries) and the Catalogo dei Carteggi, which includes the basic metadata for a large portion of the holdings of the National Library of Florence. Following that, Ingeborg will present how the data can be visualised and studied using social network analysis. Based on this approach, we will see how individuals moved between open and closed circles in the early modern scholarly network.

All are welcome and there will be drinks and discussion after the presentations. Attendance is free but we kindly ask that you register for the event.

This event is organised by UCLDH, which is part of the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies.