Do new information technologies always produce progress and enlightenment? No, at least according to observers in 17th-century Europe. Brendan Dooley demonstrates in this study that the transformation of information about present and past politics into a saleable product - whether in the form of hired histories or in the form of journalism - turned writers into speculators, information into opinion and readers into critics. The result, he says, was a powerful current of scepticism with extraordinary consequences. Combined with late-17th-century developments in other areas of thought and writing, it produced scepticism about the possibility of gaining any historical knowledge at all. Joining the history of ideas to the history of journalism and publishing, Dooley sets out to discover when early modern people believed their political informants and when they did not. He examines some of those who got the information first: the manuscript gossip writers of Rome and Venice. He then examines the writers of printed gazettes, who bought their own information or else received it from those in power.
He examines historians, both of independent means and employed by governments, and the episodes - political, social and cultural - that caused them to write. He examines the readers who knoew better than what they read, and the cultural critics, such as Pierre Bayle, who bemoaned the politicization of truth. The sceptical outcome, he shows, helped bring about a historiographical reform movement that introduced theories and techniques that are still in use today for discovering the past.
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(229mm x 152mm x 21mm)
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
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Author Biography - Brendan Dooley
Brendan Dooley is an associate professor in the Department of History at Harvard University.