Call for Contributions: Business News in the Atlantic World, 1620-1763 (deadline 1 December 2020)

Editors: Dr Sophie H. Jones (University of Liverpool); Dr Siobhan Talbott (Keele University)

The proposed collection of essays arises from an AHRC-funded Leadership Fellows grant on which Dr Talbott is PI and Dr Jones was PDRA. This volume will offer an original and cohesive perspective on the ways in which information was used by mercantile agents in the early modern Atlantic World.

In today’s society, ‘news’ exists in many forms. News as we recognise it began to emerge in the early modern period, bolstered in part by the proliferation, availability, and affordability of printing. Several studies of the history of news have, quite rightly, emphasised the ‘print revolution’ as essential in explaining the emergence of a variety of news conduits, including the newspaper. This, however, doesn’t tell the whole story of the myriad ways in which news developed and was used in this period.

This collection of essays, and the AHRC-funded project from which it emerges, focuses on a specific sub-type of news: business news. Business news was distinctive in its form, manner of circulation, dissemination and usage. Despite the rise in printed forms of ‘news’, manuscript forms of business news continued to proliferate throughout the seventeenth century and beyond, with early modern commercial agents continuing to exchange information through private letters, oral conversation and communications networks. In part, this was because an increase in printed news led to conflicting data, issues of trust, and the need to deal with 'bad' or out-of-date information.

This collection will both offer an insight into the various ways in which business news was collated, disseminated and used within the early-modern Atlantic world, and investigate and test the various methodologies that scholars can use to probe questions surrounding these issues. We intend to showcase work from scholars at a range of career stages, and encourage proposals from graduate students and early career scholars.

Possible essay topics may include, but are by no means limited to:

  • The creation and dynamics of networks of business agents – merchants, manufacturers, producers
  • Forging new networks and contacts in the early-modern Atlantic world
  • The role of networks in creating and disseminating business information
  • The methods through which information was exchanged in the early-modern Atlantic world
  • Establishing trust and/or credibility in long-distance and uncertain correspondence
  • The reception of business news: how information was used and the problems of ‘bad’ information
  • Control of and access to business information
  • Different forms of business ‘news’ (e.g. printed newspaper, handwritten newsletters and news packets) and the relationships between them
  • The oral exchange of business information and the spaces in which this occurred
  • The methodologies scholars can use to investigate merchants’ information networks

Proposals should be 250-300 words and be accompanied by a brief biography, for essays of approximately 8,000-10,000 words (including footnotes). Please email proposals to shjones@liverpool.ac.uk no later than 1 December 2020. Accepted authors will be notified by the end of January 2021.

Contributions will be submitted in the first instance by December 2021, with publication planned for 2022-23. We are in touch with the editors of Brill’s Library of the Written Word series, who have invited a full volume proposal once contributors are confirmed. We hope to be able to make this volume fully open-access.

This project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council