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Archival Intelligence: Diplomatic Correspondence, Information Overload, and Information Management in Italy, 1450–1650

Archival Intelligence: Diplomatic Correspondence, Information Overload, and Information Management in Italy, 1450–1650

Chapter:
(p.53) 3 Archival Intelligence: Diplomatic Correspondence, Information Overload, and Information Management in Italy, 1450–1650
Source:
Archives and Information in the Early Modern World
Author(s):
Filippo de Vivo
Publisher:
British Academy
DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197266250.003.0003

The rise of permanent diplomacy in the 15th century and the expansion of diplomatic networks in the 16th resulted in a massive surge in correspondence between ambassadors and their masters back home. Historians justly inscribe this phenomenon in the early modern information revolution, but news only turns into information and information into useful knowledge if it is packaged and retrieved for re-circulation. Information overload requires new management techniques, which were honed by chancellors and secretaries. Archives were centres of information long before they became repositories of sources for historians. Focusing on Italy in the period 1450–1650, this article discusses the gathering and circulation of diplomatic letters and dispatches, systems for managing correspondence on receipt, techniques for processing information, and the storage of correspondence in archives. It compares the arrangements adopted in republics and principalities to underline their differences as well as similarities.

Keywords:   diplomacy, early modern Italy, information management, information overload, archives, ambassadors, correspondence, chancelleries, secretaries, chancellors

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