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The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) has granted dr. Michiel van Groesen one of its prestigious VIDI grants for his project 'Covering the Ocean: Newspapers and Information Management in the Atlantic World, 1620-1770'. Van Groesen is assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam's early modern history department and researcher of the Amsterdam Centre for the Study of the Golden Age.

Project description


The Low Countries, with its highly advanced print culture, formed Europe's clearing house for news. Events in the Americas and Africa in particular had a direct bearing on the balance of power at home, and were reported on with great intensity. However, the role of Atlantic news in the development of early modern European media has never been systematically analyzed. This program, positioned at the intersection of Atlantic history and the history of news, investigates how early print media covered distant but urgent geopolitical conflicts, using newspapers from the Low Countries, north and south.

Taking a comparative perspective, this program examines contrasting patterns of propaganda and persuasion in early European journalism, rooting them in their social and political context. Atlantic news represented a unique challenge, as the tension between the infrequent arrival of information and a regular deadline consistently jeopardized the newspapers' credibility. In the Dutch Republic, with its culture of open discussion, a 'public Atlantic' emerged. In the more autocratic Southern Netherlands, by contrast, Atlantic news was successfully managed by the royal government. An interdisciplinary study of these politically opposing yet linguistically identical media landscapes deepens our understanding of the European media's priorities, strategies, and biases that continue to be relevant in a globalized world.

Methodologically, the program explores both the content and style of early newspapers, breaking new ground by bringing together cultural history and argumentation theory. In four closely related projects, two PhDs, one postdoc, and the applicant will establish the impact on authorities, readers, and on each other of the newspapers' Atlantic reporting. In order to connect the rhetoric of the early modern press to contemporary media strategies, and to create methodological coherence, the program will apply Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky's classic 'Propaganda Model' to premodern journalism for the first time.