Tag Archives: Information and Empire: Mechanisms of Communication in Russia

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Expect the Unexpected

Underlying my contributions to Information and Empire is academic work extending back several decades over much of my academic career (with many breaks for other projects). I have had the satisfaction of seeing conclusions based on imperfect evidence confirmed by the work of colleagues (notably Ingrid Maier and Stepan Shamin), who have taken the analysis to new levels. The process also has taught me to expect the unexpected and to confront complexities whose resolution may never be within our grasp.

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Of Roots and Scrolls

Or,
How the Bible, Witchcraft, and Botany Were Brought Together By Bureaucracy In A Completely Everyday Fashion That Was Totally Normal At The Time, No, Really, Stay With Me On This One You Guys.

Because I can explain. This is the story of an institution both entirely unique and completely typical, and of its documents, which were also weird and wonderful whilst being simultaneously humdrum and mundane. This is the story of the Apothecary Chancery. Across the seventeenth century, an official institution housed in an unassuming building next to the Moscow Kremlin was home to a small group of foreign medical practitioners (immigrants – they get the job done), and a smaller group of Russian bureaucrats, who did various things with their day, among which was to read things, talk about things, and write things down. That last part happened in a normal way for their surroundings, that is to say they were written in Russian, and on scrolls. This was how all official documents were created, circulated, and joined together into long threads around the entire empire, whether about the rise and fall of nations, or the delivery of firewood.
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How do people know things?

 

“How do people know things?” – the title of this blog post – seems like a simple question, but as our new publication, Information and Empire: Mechanisms of Communication in Russia, 1600-1850 demonstrates, the answer is complex. The volume focuses on how people knew things in pre-modern Russia, from the official information collected and used by the imperial government or created and circulated through bureaucratic institutions to the ways in which information was circulated publicly and privately through newspapers, the post, and experienced through the visual “graphosphere”. In addressing the broader question of the empire’s knowledge, the book brings together a history of information and its communication in Russia through case studies written by specialists. Continue reading