This page reflects a scholar's association with the Folger Institute.
“The Reign of Paper: Information in the Early Modern Age” (NEH, 2015–2016)
This project offers a new interpretation of early modern Europe, taking information as its unifying theme. It argues that in the period 1450–1700 changes in the generation, exchange and storage of information, much of it impressed on paper, constituted an “information revolution” and placed a new premium on information management in European society. Scholars now speak of information overload in early modern state craft and scholarly life, of the emergence of an information economy rooted in a new emphasis on numeracy, of a “science of describing’ that evinced an empirical approach to the natural world, of state-building that required the collection of information about populations and sources of revenue, and of a burgeoning culture of archives that insisted on the preservation of paper records as private and institutional memory. This book synthesizes this scholarship with the author’s original research in early modern archives, statecraft and print culture. Under the overarching rubric of the information revolution, the book draws out meaningful connections between these concurrent trends. Residence at the Folger would allow me to exploit the rich reservoir of early printed works of various genres that furnish evidence of these transformations. Designed to engage big historical questions across many fields of human activity, this book has interdisciplinary implications and applications and will have broad appeal to scholars and students in various fields in the humanities and social sciences. It will be a genuinely original contribution to the growing field of information history.