Brendan Dooley Birth of News Director
Brendan Dooley Birth of News Director
Junior Research Fellow
With the establishment of public mail routes in the early sixteenth century, weekly and biweekly manuscript newsletters, known as avvisi, began to circulate among cities and courts of Europe. The content of these folios ranged from political and financial updates, cultural events, news of catastrophes, plagues, and conflicts as well as social commentary, local color, and gossip. Written by postmasters, information brokers, and anonymous agents, copied by teams of scribes, hawked on the streets, purchased by subscription, and read, often out loud, at court, avvisi originated from places as distant from each other as London, Madrid, Krakow, Venice, Malta and Constantinople.
The sheer quantity of avvisi and their often erratic organization in archives have frustrated comprehensive analyses of this historical phenomenon. The Birth of News program intends to examine one of the most complete and geographically inclusive collections of avvisi in Europe. Housed in the Archivio di Stato in Florence and incorporated in the epistolary collection of the Medici Grand Dukes (Mediceo del Principato), this corpus of avvisi (1537-1743), comprising more than 200,000 folios, arrived to Tuscany from all over Europe, Northern Africa and the Levant.
This program’s mission includes the transcription and contextualization of the avvisi in the Medici Archives, using one of the most innovative digital humanities platforms now in public use: the Medici Archive Project’s BIA, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Utilizing the data-organization tools furnished by BIA, The Birth of News program will systematically address the cultural world of avvisi, map out their trajectories, analyze their content, and configure, with historical grounding, the shape of public information in early modern Europe.
Alessio Assonitis (The Medici Archive Project), Nicholas Brownlees (Università degli studi di Firenze), Mario Infelise (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia) Samuel Morrison Gallacher (IMT – Institute for Advanced Studies Lucca), Brian Sandberg (Northern Illinois University), Davide Boerio (Università degli studi di Napoli – Federico II)
The Neapolitan Revolution is one of the most important events of early modern Europe. For nine months the House of Austria’s control over one of its most vital kingdoms had been jeopardized by the extraordinary resistance of the Neapolitan people against the nobles and the Spanish forces, which led to the proclamation in October 1647 of the Neapolitan Republic, which would last until 6 April 1648, when the Spaniards regained control over the city.
Nevertheless, the understanding of this event has been strongly affected by a historical tradition that identifies the whole course of the revolution with an extraordinary character: the young Neapolitan fishmonger Masaniello. This historiographical judgment has had a dual effect: on the one hand, it served to diminish the Neapolitan Revolution to a riot without any political content; on the other, it tarnished the image of the real protagonist of this extraordinary story: the Neapolitan Popolo.
Through the documentation preserved in the Mediceo del Principato and, particularly, through the Avvisi sent to the Medici court by its agents in the Kingdom of Naples and in other places, it is possible to rewrite an important piece of this forgotten history, deepening our understanding of one of the crucial moments of the early modern period.
Una delle più memorabili commotioni poopolari,
che siano già lungo tempo accadute in alcuna parte,
potiamo dire, che sia stata quella che ha cagionata
la guerra Civile a Napoli, della quale mi sono accinto
a scrivere tanto più volentieri, quanto che non vedo,
che alcuno habbia stimatone il vero principio,
ma ciascheduno l’ha creduto un mero accidente,
senza veruna precedente cagione […]
(Maiolino Bisaccioni, Historia delle guerre
civili di questi ultimi tempi, Venetia 1653)