The Early Modern Go-Between

Research Seminar

Organised by Prof. Jorge Flores, Prof. Giuseppe Marcocci (Fernand Braudel Fellow) and Dr. Guido van Meersbergen (Max Weber Fellow)
Tuesdays 11:00-12:50, Sala Belvedere 
Admin. Assistant: Alina Vlad
Starts on 12 January 2016


Seminar description

The figure of the go-between in the early modern era has been calling the attention of historians specialized in different fields and cultural zones. The period has indeed produced a considerable number of mediators of all kinds, be it in Europe or in other parts of the globe. Political entrepreneurs-adventurers, religious “hybrids”, cultural brokers, interpreters and translators, scientific and intellectual intermediaries, all of them sprouted and lived in a world that tended to be more global and “multicultural", less predictable and “contained". This seminar focuses on individuals and communities – but also ideas and objects – that travelled between diverse cultures and societies in the pre-modern world. It aims to study characters, typologies, spaces and mechanisms of cultural mediation of that period by adopting a global perspective.


12 January: Go-betweens and Spaces of Mediation

  • Richard White, “The Middle Ground”, in id., The Middle Ground. Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815, Cambridge UP, 1991, ch. 2, pp. 50-93.
  • Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Three Ways to Be Alien. Travails & Encounters in the Early Modern World, Brandeis UP, 2011, intro, pp. 1-22.
  • Kapil Raj, “Go-Betweens, Travelers, and Cultural Translators”, in Bernard Lightman (ed.), The Blackwell Companion of the History of Science, Wiley-Blackwell, 2016, pp. 39-57.


19 January: Individuals and Communities

  • R. Anderson, “The Quilombo of Palmares: A New Overview of a Maroon State in Seventeenth-Century Brazil”, Journal of Latin American Studies 28:3 (Oct. 1996), pp. 545-566.
  • John-Paul Ghobrial, “The Secret Life of Elias of Babylon and the Uses of Global Microhistory”, Past and Present 222:1 (Feb. 2014), pp. 51-93.
  • Nancy E. van Deusen, “Indios on the Move in the Sixteenth-Century Iberian World”, Journal of Global History 10:3 (2015), pp. 387-409.


26 January: Gender

  • Eric Dursteler, Renegade Women: Gender, Identity, and Boundaries in the Early Modern Mediterranean, John Hopkins University Press, 2011, ch. 1 (“Fatima Hatun née Beatrice Michiel”), pp. 1-33 (+ footnotes).
  • Taymiya R. Zaman, 'Visions of Juliana: A Portuguese Woman at the Court of the Mughals', Journal of World History 23.4 (2012), pp. 761-791.
  • Eric Jones, 'Gender, Bondage, and the Law in Early Dutch Asia', in Eric Jones, Wives, Slaves, and Concubines: A History of the Female Underclass in Dutch Asia, DeKalb, Northern Illinois University Press, 2010, pp. 9-28.


2 February: Trust and Trade

  • Francesca Trivellato, The Familiarity of Strangers. The Sephardic Diaspora, Livorno, and Cross-cultural Trade in the Early Modern Period, Yale University Press, 2012, ch. 7 (“Cross-Cultural Trade and the Etiquette of Merchant Letters”), pp. 177-193 (+ footnotes).
  • Sebouh Aslanian, “Social Capital, ‘Trust’ and the Role of Networks in Julfan Trade: Informal and Semi-Formal Institutions at Work”, Journal of Global History 1:3 (2006), pp. 383-402.
  • Laurie Nussdorfer, Brokers of Public Trust: Notaries in Early Modern Rome, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009, ch. 5 (“The Office: Building Scribal Lives”), pp. 147-197 (+ footnotes).


9 February: Language and Communication

  • Peter Burke, “The Renaissance Translator as Go-Between”, in Andreas Höfele & Werner von Koppenfels (eds.), Renaissance Go-Betweens: Cultural Exchange in Early Modern Europe, Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co, 2005, pp. 17-31.
  • E. Nathalie Rothman, “Interpreting Dragomans. Boundaries and Crossings in the Early Modern Mediterranean”, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 51:4 (Oct. 2009), pp. 771-800.
  • Katherine Grandjean, American Passage. The Communications Frontier in Early New England, 2015, ch. 3 (‘Native Tongues’), pp. 76-109. Electronic file available.


16 February: Sacred Texts on the Move

  • Eric Fenn, “The Bible and the Missionary”, The Cambridge History of the Bible, vol. 3, The West from the Reformation to the Present Day, ed. S. L. Greenslade, Cambridge UP, 1963, pp.383-406.
  • Harm den Boer & Pier Mattia Tommasino, “Reading the Qur’ān in the 17th-Century Sephardi Community of Amsterdam”, Al-Qantara 35:2 (2014), pp. 461-491.
  • Kiri Paramore, Ideology and Christianity in Japan, Routledge, 2009, ch. 3 (“Early Tokugawa anti-Christian Discourse: Proclamations, populist literature and diplomacy”) pp. 52-77.


23 February: Cross-Confessionalization

  • Natalie Zemon Davis, Trickster Travels: A Sixteenth-Century Muslim Between Worlds, Hill and Wang, 2006, ch. 6 (“Between Islam and Christianity”), pp. 153-190.
  • Miriam Bodian, “A converso surgeon in the viceroyalty of Peru”, in id., Dying in the Law of Moses. Crypto-Jewish Martyrdom in the Iberian World, Indian University Press, 2007, ch. 5, pp. 117-152.
  • Tijana Krstic, “Illuminated by the Light of Islam and the Glory of the Ottoman Sultanate: Self-Narratives of Conversion to Islam in the Age of Confessionalization”, in Comparative Studies in Society and History  51:1 (2009), pp. 35-63.


8 March: Mediterranean Go-Betweens: A session with Diego Pirilllo (I Tatti Fellow) and Cecilia Tarruell (MWF).

  • Diego Pirillo, When Diplomacy Fails: Espionage and Theology in the Anglo-Venetian Renaissance
  • Cecilia Tarruell, Early Modern Careers between Christian and Islamic Lands: Views from the Hispanic Monarchy (16th-17th Centuries)
  • Readings TBA


15 March: Objects and Images

  • Peter Mason, The Lives of Images, Reaktion Books, 2001, ch. 4 (“The Purloined Codex”), pp. 101-130.
  • Paula Findlen, “Early Modern Things: Objects in Motion, 1500-1800”, in id. (ed.), Early Modern Things. Objects and their Histories, 1500-1800, Routledge, 2013, pp. 3-27.
  • Alessandra Russo, “Cortés’s objects and the Idea of New Spain: Inventories as Spatial Narratives”, Journal of the History of Collections (2011), pp. 229-252.


22 March: A Mestizo World?

  • Serge Gruzinski, The Mestizo Mind. The Intellectual dynamics of globalization and globalization, Routledge, 2002, ch. 2 (“Mélange and Mestizo”), pp. 17-32 (+ footnotes).
  • Joanne Rappaport, The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada, Duke UP 2014, ch. 2 (“Mestizo Networks: Did “Mestizo” Constitute a Group?”), pp. 61-93 (+ footnotes).
  • Leonard Y. Andaya, “The ‘informal Portuguese empire’ and the Topasses in the Solor archipelago in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 41.3 (2010), pp. 391-420.


Further Reading:

  • Barnard, Timothy P. “Mestizos as Middlemen: Tomas Días and his Travels in Eastern Sumatra”, in P. P. Borschberg (ed.), Iberian in the Singapore-Melaka Area (16th to 18th Century), Harrassowitz Verlag & Fundação Oriente, 2004, pp. 147-160.
  • Burton, Antoinette & Tony Ballantyne (eds.), Bodies in Contact. Rethinking Colonial Encounters in World History, Duke University Press, 2005 (especially Julia C. Wells, 'Eva's Men: Gender and Power at the Cape of Good Hope', pp. 84-105).
  • Colley, Linda, The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh. A Woman in World History, Markus Wiener Publishers, 2002.
  • Jardine, Lisa & Jerry Brotton, Global Interests: Renaissance Art between East and West, Reaktion Books, 2000.
  • Journal of Early Modern History, 19:2 (2015).
  • Kagan, Richard L. & Philip D. Morgan (eds.), Atlantic Diasporas. Jews, Conversos, and Crypto-Jews in the Age of Mercantilism, 1500-1800, Johns Hopkins UP, 2009.
  • Lamikiz, Xabier, Trade and Trust in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World: Spanish Merchants and their Overseas Networks, The Boydell Press, 2010.
  • Malette, Karla, “Lingua Franca”, A Companion to Mediterranean History, ed. Peregrine Horden, Sharon Kinoshita, Wiley Blackwell, 2014, pp. 330-344.
  • Pratt, Mary Louise, ‘Introduction: Criticism in the Contact Zone’, in id., Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation, Routledge, 1992, ch. 1, pp. 1-14.
  • Schaffer, Simon, et al. (eds.), The Brokered World. Go-Betweens and Global Intelligence, 1770-1820, Science History Publications, 2009.
  • Sood, Gagan, ‘The Informational Fabric of Eighteenth-Century India and the Middle East: Couriers, Intermediaries and Postal Communication’, Modern Asian Studies 43.5 (2009), pp. 1085-1116.
  • Thornton, John, The Kongolose Saint Anthony. Dona Beatriz Kimpa Vita and the Antonian Movement, 1684–1706, Cambridge UP, 1998.
  • Trivellato, Francesca, ‘Introduction: The Historical and Comparative Study of Cross-Cultural Trade’, in Trivellato et al. (eds.), Religion and Trade: Cross-Cultural Exchanges in World History, 1000-1900, Oxford UP, 2009, pp. 1-23.


Page last updated on 18 August 2017

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