The ambassador and the press: printed diplomatic letters and the entanglement of public and private news provision in the late seventeenth-century Dutch Republic

Basil Bowdler, Arthur T. der Weduwen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

In 1669, the regents of the States General, the federal assembly of the Dutch Republic, instructed their printer (Statendrukker) henceforth to print all documents that they required in at least five copies. Amongst resolutions, placards and ordinances, this included the regular despatches from the Republic’s diplomatic agents. This remarkable printed correspondence, which has never before been studied in depth, is the focus of our article. The practice of printing diplomatic despatches was unique to the Dutch Republic: by drawing attention to this neglected source, we shed light on the circulation of news amongst the political elite of the Dutch Republic, as well as broader diplomatic and news networks in Europe. By directly comparing the content of the news provided in the diplomatic despatches with that publicly available in the commercial newspapers of the Republic, we also challenge a dichotomy between public and private news provision and a perception of the regents as obsessed with secrecy. We suggest that the printed despatches were not valued by the States General because they contained exclusive information, but rather because they could be used to verify news already available to the regents through other sources, and to facilitate the circulation of information from the States General in The Hague to the provincial States and city councils. This article also presents evidence that the States General’s printed despatches occasionally circulated among foreign agents and officials.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages27
JournalThe Seventeenth Century
VolumeLatest Articles
Early online date3 Oct 2023
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Oct 2023

Keywords

  • Diplomacy
  • Early modern Europe
  • Netherlands
  • Newspapers
  • Politics

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