"Convey it by a safe hand": trust, credit and credibility in seventeenth century transatlantic news networks

Hall seminar

Thursday 7 February 2019, 5.00PM

Speaker(s): Sarah Hall (York)

CREMS Research Seminar

Trust was vital to the passage of news in the fragmented, itinerant, and fluctuating puritan communities of the early and mid-seventeenth century. Migration to the New World had utterly changed the way that the godly communicated with their friends and kin. Transporting letters became dependent on merchant ships, on bearers willing and able to cross the Atlantic. But not just any bearer would suffice. Trust was essential to the sending of all letters, from the mundane to the sensitive, the routine to the secretive. In these years, when ‘there were never more pretenders to the truth than in this age, nor ever fewer than obtained it,’ trust was a powerful and vital force for assessing the credibility of news and information. This paper will explore the way that trust and social credit were established, assured, and extended along the sinews of the extensive news networks of the transatlantic puritan communities, in the years before a formal postal service existed. Employing innovative methods of social network analysis and spatial analysis, this paper will also provide new perspectives on how news networks actually functioned, highlighting the role of lesser-known actors alongside the traditional figures that dominate the historiography of early New England. More widely, this paper contributes to a more nuanced understanding of puritan sociability in the early and mid-seventeenth century, revealing an active and conscious awareness and utilisation of personal networks to ensure the safe passage of news and information.

Location: BS/008 Berrick Saul Building

Admission: All Welcome!