Communication and Transportation
COMMUNICATION AND TRANSPORTATION
COMMUNICATION AND TRANSPORTATION. Transportation and communication are central to the development of any society and its economy, and early modern Europe was no exception. Despite some significant advances in the engineering and construction of roads and canals between 1450 and 1750, as well as the construction of ships and, to a much lesser extent, of carriages and wagons, for the most part European travel and, therefore communication, remained as it had been in the Middle Ages, tied to the speeds of man and horse on land, and of wind and current on water. Oceanic transport made the greatest leaps forward during this period. Europeans constructed ships capable of sailing the open seas, and navigational devices and techniques capable of guiding them on these long-distance voyages. As a result, they succeeded in circumnavigating Africa to reach Asia, and in crossing the Atlantic to reach the New World. These voyages of "discovery" opened up vast new markets and sources of labor and products that greatly boosted Europe's wealth and power. Inland commerce during this period, however, always commanded a much greater share in the European economy than long-distance trade, and thus inland transportation, by land or water routes, remained far more important in the lives of most people than oceanic navigation.
It is ironic, therefore, in light of the revolutionary changes in oceanic travel and trade, that for most of the early modern period prior to the eighteenth century, rulers lacked either the will or the funds to revolutionize inland transportation, and the high price tag of the changes that were made is an indication of the enormous mobilization of resources that would have been required to do the job well. The significance of inland transportation is evident in the growing gap by the end of the eighteenth century between nations and regions that devoted resources to upgrading their roads and inland waterways and those that did not. It is not by accident that Europe's most advanced economies at the end of the early modern period, England, France, and the Netherlands, also possessed the best transportation infrastructures, and those less advanced, Poland, Spain, and Germany, for example, lagged far behind.
Communication was tied closely to transportation as, in the absence of electronic communications, it depended on the speed and efficiency of transportation. Messages had to be carried, orally or in writing, from one place to another, and most traveled in the same vehicles as passengers and merchandise. Communications, therefore, were also tied to the speed of horse, oxen, barge, or a man on foot. People, information, ideas, and products did travel extensively in early modern Europe, probably much more than people imagine today. But they traveled much more slowly and laboriously, and at a higher cost, which makes the volume of movement against so many obstacles that much more impressive.
Early modern communication took place in three main modes: spoken words, manuscript writing—especially letters—and print. Oral communication was the oldest of these three, and in many ways early modern society was still primarily an oral society. Although literacy increased enormously during this period, most people, especially among the lower classes, possessed limited reading and writing skills and relied heavily on memory and speech for preserving and transmitting information. Poets and writers in other genres still composed their works with the assumption that they would be read or sung to their audiences. The most popular form of cheap print for the masses produced in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was ballads, many of them updated editions of songs that had been around for centuries. Another common print purchase among the lower classes was woodcut pictures with, at the most, only a few sentences included to explain the image.
Yet the early modern era was a society in transition, and as literacy spread, so did the importance of writing in people's lives. In this the Reformation played an important role because the ability to read the Bible and the Psalms was essential to a Protestant education, so much so that Martin Luther and John Calvin alike, and most Protestant rulers, made a great although not wholly successful effort to expand educational opportunities for the masses to ensure that the population possessed at least minimal reading skills and a basic knowledge of the Bible. Literacy also increased in Catholic countries, however, indicating that factors other than religion encouraged its spread. Among the most important of these no doubt was the growing use of written contracts in commerce. Merchants needed to be able to write, read, and digest voluminous commercial correspondence. Business letters were the means whereby merchants exchanged vital information such as exchange rates, the availability of products, the level of demand in various markets, and threats to shipping. In fact, early modern postal services, while created to serve the needs of governments, mostly drew their clientele from the business community. Commercial centers like Amsterdam became nexuses of information, much of it in the form of letters. It is thus also no accident that the most literate populations tended to be found in cities and regions with a high concentration of commerce or industry that brought much of the population into regular contact with the market.
Beginning in the Renaissance, writing developed as an important form of personal expression, especially among the erudite and the upper classes. The letter was central to the development of humanism, and most were written with the expectation that they would be read and discussed by a much wider audience than the intended recipient. Moreover, in the style of the ancient ars dictaminis or art of letter writing, in which Renaissance humanists consciously emulated great classical letter writers such as Cicero, scholars discussed philosophy while practicing rhetoric in lengthy, highly stylized letters. Rhetoric formed an intrinsic part of these letters because they were meant to be quasipublic documents, to be read aloud as well as silently. The spread of humanism north of the Alps in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and its inclusion in the education of the upper classes, meant that effective letter-writing skills became a necessity for well-bred ladies and gentlemen. Yet writing also brought unforeseen and unsettling consequences to the lives of European elites, because they increasingly used letters not only to express ideas and information suitable for public consumption, but also to explore and articulate private musings and passions. Nobles wrote for pleasure, as a way of developing richer inner lives, nurturing intimacy with close friends and family, and distinguishing themselves from the classes below them, who might be literate but rarely had the time or inclination to write for anything other than utilitarian purposes. Merchants did also write personal as well as business letters. The correspondence between Magdalena and Balthasar Paumgartner, a merchant couple living in sixteenth-century Nuremberg, discusses both business and personal concerns such as their own and their son's illnesses and family gossip. Their letters evince the Paumgartners' tender regard for each other, although they are written in the formal style common to the early modern period. But their letters were rarely as lengthy or reflective as those of eighteenth-century nobles. Finally, it should be noted that letters played a significant role in disseminating information during the scientific revolution, particularly before the various scientific academies began the practice of printing and distributing their members' papers and treatises.
Print was the newest medium of the three, and brought revolutionary change to early modern society. The volume of printed works available for purchase expanded considerably between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, although most lower-class Europeans were lucky if they could afford cheap woodcuts, pamphlets, or broadsides, let alone a book. If they did own a book, it was most likely to be religious, a Bible in Protestant countries, a prayer book or hagiography in Catholic ones. Reprints of classical works also were popular. Increasingly the printing press became a means to communicate information, less in the form of newspapers, which did not become common until the eighteenth century, than in the form of almanacs and gazettes filled with practical knowledge. Enterprising publishers began printing handbooks for merchants containing explanations of specialized techniques and business practices, such as double-entry bookkeeping, maritime insurance, and bills of exchange.
News, whether spoken, handwritten, or printed, traveled from place to place within Europe via roads or waterways, the two forms of inland travel. Travel by water was always cheaper than land routes, simply because more weight could be carried on water than on land. Water transport circulated more slowly than land travel, however, which meant that it was suitable for hauling large, bulky freight, but much less so for moving smaller, more expensive items or any cargo or passengers needing to reach a destination quickly. Sizable companies specializing in water transport began to appear in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, although most merchants relied on individual haulers or ship captains or, in the case of coastal or transoceanic shipping, purchased their own ship or a share in a jointly owned vessel.
Inland water traffic had another drawback; it was restricted to navigable waterways, and although they increased in number during the early modern period, they remained far scarcer than roads. Moreover, waterways were not always reliable, since they were often non-navigable due to low water levels in summer, flooding or freezing in winter, and silting or obstructions in the waterway, such as sunken ships, watermills, fish weirs, and sandbars year round. They frequently were encumbered with tolls as well. On heavily traveled routes, barges could easily get backed up for days or more at locks while waiting for obstructions to be cleared.
Land routes had their own hazards, including the poor state of most roads, especially prior to the eighteenth century. Roads tended to follow waterways, and thus to meander. Wagons got stuck up to their axles in mud since very few roads were paved or engineered with the latest techniques to keep water from seeping in and undermining the roadbed. On the other hand, the very fact that most roads, and especially smaller ones, were really little more than paths meant that vehicles could simply drive around obstructions that would have halted water traffic. Land transport was costly primarily because even the hardiest teams of oxen or horses could move far less than a barge. Thus inland transportation depended on both land and water travel, and the two were closely intertwined in early modern European transport networks. By the same token, inland transport intersected with saltwater navigation, as many of the same small vessels that plied the coasts and carried coastal exports around Europe also sailed inland waterways. And products imported from abroad had to be transshipped onto these smaller vessels or onto wagons for transport to their final destinations.
CANALS AND INLAND WATERWAYS
The early modern period saw a significant expansion of navigable waterways. Much of the traffic on these waterways moved via towpaths, in which horses walking on a footpath that followed the waterway dragged barges from place to place. Towpaths were especially vital for canals or rivers in flat areas that lacked a strong current to carry the vessels. Needless to say, low-lying regions blessed with abundant rivers and streams, such as the Low Countries, had an advantage on this score, whereas mountainous regions remained dependent on mules or human carriers until the advent of the railroad and automobile. Still, the needs of commerce and government administration, and the will and ability of the state or private entrepreneurs to spend the capital required to build or improve waterways, determined which countries and regions saw the greatest expansion in inland waterways, and which lagged behind. The Spanish crown, for example, squandered the opportunity to invest the bonanza of wealth it drew from New World silver mines in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in building badly needed infrastructure to stimulate its economy at home. In general, nations with either a powerful, centralizing royal government, or a burgeoning mercantile class, or both, were most likely to build roads and waterways. Regions with weak centralized governments, such as Germany, or a small pool of merchants and few cities, such as Poland, ended the early modern period with poor transportation infrastructures. The result was often a vicious circle, because bad transportation impeded the development of places such as grain-rich Sicily and Poland, which possessed resources but no way to get them to market efficiently. Regions lacking in transport tended also to have underdeveloped economies and to be weaker politically and militarily than their neighbors.
Building waterways was an expensive undertaking, particularly in hilly regions where numerous locks were required. Ideally a natural waterway would already be present, which might be canalized (widened, deepened, or straightened in its route with locks added where needed). In the absence of a preexisting river or stream, however, early modern governments, in what would be called today a "public-private partnership" with entrepreneurs, financed impressive canal-building projects. The most famous of these was the Canal du Midi in France, linking the Mediterranean and the Atlantic via Toulouse and the Garonne River. It was opened for navigation 15 May 1681. Louis XIV's great minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert was the moving spirit behind the project, and in 1664 he joined with the energetic financier Pierre-Paul Riquet, baron of Bonrepos, who worked tirelessly to engineer and secure financing for the project. The undertaking was enormous, requiring 119 locks, numerous artificial basins, and dams, and even a tunnel under a mountain, not to mentions the construction of a new port, called Sète. The canal is uniformly sixand-a-half feet deep despite the fact that it rises to 620 feet above sea level. The total cost of the 150-mile (240 kilometer) canal was 17,179,330 livres, over four million of which Riquet contributed himself, with the rest borne equally by the crown and the Estates of Languedoc. It was an impressive engineering achievement when it was completed in 1691. Although it is still in use today, the canal never lived up to expectations. Maintenance costs were rarely built into the money allocated for early modern road and canal building, and silting and wear and tear on the locks soon made many stretches of the Canal du Midi unserviceable.
France built other canals in the early modern period, the most successful of which were those that, like the Canal de Briare, begun by Henry IV's minister the duc de Sully in 1605 and completed in 1640, were designed to link Paris with the everexpanding hinterland the great city required to feed its population. The Canal de Briare was typical in another way, in that it too was financed and completed not by the crown, but by a private company that planned to recoup its investment by charging tolls for its use. By the end of the Old Regime, France had about 625 miles (1,000 kilometers) of canals, far fewer than England, but at least 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) of navigable rivers, streams, or canals.
Germany was blessed with good rivers, the foremost of which, the Rhine, acted as a veritable pipeline connecting the North Sea and the Baltic with Switzerland. The Danube provided an equally important route to the grain-producing regions of Central and Eastern Europe and, eventually, the Black Sea. The Elbe, the Oder, the Weser, and the Vistula were also vital to Germany's transportation network. Not surprisingly, German urban networks were tied closely to rivers. On the other hand, Germany possessed by the end of the early modern period only three hundred miles of canals or canalized rivers, compared to the seven hundred miles constructed in England between 1600 and 1760 alone. Some canals were built in Germany, however, including the canal linking the commercial cities of Lübeck and Hamburg, which could get so backed up that barges often took three weeks to make the relatively short trip. The Frederick William Canal was opened in Prussia in 1669. The lack of centralized government made water travel in Germany expensive, however, because without state intervention there was no power able to prune the many tolls and duties cities along waterways had levied since the Middle Ages.
England and Holland were the most aggressive canal builders of Europe, most likely because their economies, and especially that of the Dutch, were heavily dependent on commerce and industry. The Dutch began first, and pioneered engineering techniques others later adopted. The growth of Dutch commercial centers, and especially of the predominant city of Amsterdam, required the reduction of transportation costs and a predictable, dependable supply of goods. The expansion of peat-digging (peat was used for fuel) was another impetus to the growth of Dutch canals, because the bulky commodity could best be brought from the inland areas where it was found to the cities where it was needed via water. The Dutch began using locks on canals in the fifteenth century. In 1529 the first beurtveer (regulated transportation service) was established between the cities of Amsterdam and Hoorn. Boats and their skippers were licensed to carry passengers and required to keep regular departure schedules regardless of whether they were fully loaded. The schedules were published and enforced. This afforded passengers and those freighting cargoes on these boats and barges an assurance that they and their goods would arrive in a dependable and timely fashion. This service spread throughout the Netherlands in the sixteenth century and became linked to wagon routes, thus bringing towns not reachable by water into the network. The barges traveled slowly, on average only at about seven kilometers (about 4.5 miles) per hour. But their dependability was such that cities throughout Holland built canals with towpaths to ensure that they were linked with Amsterdam and from there to the wider world. Soon "night barges" were added, allowing passengers to save even more time by sleeping for part of the journey. These towpath canals carried literally hundreds of thousands of passengers annually between Holland's major cities in the seventeenth century.
The English too were aggressive canal builders, and also went about draining swamps and fens such as those of East Anglia by making cuts that were then used for canals. By the end of the Old Regime, England was second only to Holland in the number of canals built, despite the fact that England was much smaller than France, Spain, or Germany.
Although it is true that many more roads were built between the end of the fifteenth century and 1789, probably the major change in land transport in the early modern period was state intervention to construct postal routes and stations, and to ensure some regularity of transport service, especially for passengers and mail via stagecoaches. Here the English made the most progress with their famous turnpikes, surpassing even the Dutch, although the French under Colbert and his successors also advanced. The French and English approaches to the problem of funding well-engineered roads were quite different, however, with the French favoring much greater state control, in part because the primary motivation of French road building was to enhance the ability of the central government to communicate with, and control, the provinces, whereas the English left road building mostly in the hands of private entrepreneurs who received government concessions to build and maintain toll roads. One result of this divergence was that whereas, then as now, the French transportation network converged often inconveniently on Paris, the English network served first and foremost the needs of commerce and was thus much more evenly distributed geographically.
At the beginning of the early modern period, almost all transportation was in private hands. Merchants contracted on an individual basis with haulers, the majority of whom were peasants working part-time as carriers. Their labor was seasonal, an inconvenience to be sure, but the plentiful supply of labor meant that competition kept rates fairly low. Similarly, most barge traffic was also in the hands of self-employed individuals who owned their own vessels and contracted on a job-by-job basis. Private messengers carried all but the most important government mail. Letters frequently reached their recipients through informal carriers. Balthasar Paumgartner often sent his letters to his wife Magdalena via a friend or fellow German merchant who happened to be traveling to Nuremberg, in return, no doubt, for performing the same service himself at other times.
By the seventeenth century the needs of government and business began to outstrip this informal system, however. Private mail and carriage by no means disappeared, but governments, especially in the most "absolutist" states, began to build and maintain roads, set up post offices and state coach services, and eventually to open those services, at first reserved for government business, to private citizens. These postal services began as relay stations or "rest stops" where messengers could exchange tired horses for fresh ones, refresh themselves, and continue their journey. Because carriers did not have to stop frequently to rest their horses, mail could travel much more quickly. Such services were similar to the American Pony Express system, and since they were also often located in inns, with the innkeeper contracted with the government to provide the horses, they doubled as stagecoach stops as well. By the eighteenth century regularly scheduled stage services were available, permitting travelers to begin or end a journey at almost any stage along the route.
In France, Colbert was again the moving force behind the expansion of France's road system. He desired a truly national and integrated transportation network linking the provinces of France to Paris. Before the roads could be built, however, the state had to create a system to finance and administrate them. This Colbert and his successors found difficult to do and even more difficult to sustain. In the mid-seventeenth century, the budget of the bureau of Ponts et Chaussées (bridges and roads), the branch of the French government responsible for building and maintaining roads, bridges, and canals, represented less than one percent of the state budget. Only in the eighteenth century did it rise significantly, mostly to fund the postal routes that became the heart of French overland transportation. Moreover, in the 1740s the crown authorized the creation of a school, L'École des Ingénieurs (School of engineers), capable of training the engineers needed to build the transportation routes the government intended to commission. The results were striking. By the dawn of the French Revolution in 1789, at least 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers) of new roads had been constructed.
Transportation remained slow throughout the early modern period, although the improvements of the eighteenth century did speed things up. The trip up the Seine from Rouen to Paris, which today takes one to two hours by train, could take anywhere from ten days to a month (going downstream from Paris to Rouen was usually faster, about three or four days). The voyage by coach and canal from Paris to Lyon fell from ten to eleven days in 1664 to about six days in 1760. Thus the speed of travel nearly doubled, from about twenty-five or thirty miles a day to over fifty. It took fifteen days to get to Paris from Bordeaux in 1660, and only five or six days to make the same trip in 1789. Away from main thoroughfares, however, travel speeds fell precipitously. Merchandise circulated especially slowly, and even under the best conditions rarely moved more than twenty-five miles (forty kilometers) per day. In adverse conditions it moved much slower. Thus for most travelers and their cargoes, unless they were traveling on the best-maintained roads linking France's regional capitals to Paris, there was very little improvement in transport speeds during the Old Regime. Moreover, because most cities had no post offices, French provincial mail usually had to go to Paris before it reached its recipient, even though this entailed a significant delay.
England developed a similar postal service that was opened to the public in 1635. England's greatest innovation was the development of the turnpike system, wherein private investors received royal licenses to build and maintain roads. They recouped their investment by charging tolls. The important innovation was the provision this system made for maintaining roads, in contrast to the French system, in which beautifully engineered roads were built, but then only sporadically maintained despite the use of the corvée (forced labor) drawn from local peasant populations. And England, like France, saw a similar rise in the speed of overland transport, so that a trip from London to Exeter that required eight to twelve days in the mid-seventeenth century took half that time in 1760. The rest of Europe, including even the Dutch, lagged far behind the French and English in the quantity and quality of their roads.
Although there were some innovations in carriages in the early modern period, travel for the most part remained decidedly uncomfortable for passengers. Most of the improvements in the design of carriages and wagons were less for the sake of comfort than to make them faster and more maneuverable, although glass windows and suspension systems, first in the form of leather straps, and then springs, were introduced into public and private coaches in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Iron tires affixed to carriage wheels improved durability but accelerated the deterioration of roads, which in turn helped to spur improvements such as cobblestone, graded crushed stone sealed with sand, and eventually paving. "Fifth wheel" or turning front carriages, which improved steering and stability, were developed in Germany. Even so, stagecoaches especially, which traveled very fast, remained dangerous on the narrow dirt roads over which they usually moved.
There is no doubt that significant improvement to Europe's transportation and communication networks was achieved in the early modern era. Still, the magnitude of that progress in the lives of ordinary people was not that great. To be sure, travel speeds increased, but only for those who could afford the cost. Most people and most information moved at the end of the Old Regime at a rate very similar to that of the Renaissance. A letter took about the same amount of time—six or seven weeks—to reach Venice in 1765 as it had in 1500, although it is true that more efficient transport networks meant that it cost less for it to reach its destination. Transportation and communication thus acted as a brake on the growth of the European economy until the advent of steam-powered locomotives and ships in the nineteenth century.
See also Communication, Scientific ; Literacy and Reading ; Shipping ; Travel and Travel Literature .
There are very few works of early modern history devoted entirely to communication and transportation. The works listed below contain sections discussing various facets of these topics.
Beale, Philip. A History of the Post in England from the Romans to the Stuarts. Aldershot, U.K., 1998. Although very general, this is the only complete overview of the development of the British postal system.
Bordes, Maurice. "Les routes des intendants." In his L'homme et la route en Europe occidentale au moyen âge et aux temps modernes, pp. 151–179. Auch, France, 1982. Examines the construction of the famous administrative roads the French government built in the eighteenth century, called the "Intendants' Roads" because they were under the purview of the intendants and designed to aid them in governing.
Braudel, Fernand. Civilization & Capitalism, 15th–18th Century. Vol. 1, The Structures of Everyday Life: The Limits of the Possible, and Vol. 2, The Wheels of Commerce. Translated by Siân Reynolds. New York, 1981, 1982. Translation of Les structures du quotidian: Le possible et l'impossible and Les jeux de l'échange. These two entertaining and instructive volumes contain excellent discussions of early modern communication and transport in terms both of economics and of everyday life.
Braudel, Fernand, and Ernest Labrousse, eds. Histoire économique et sociale de la France. Vol. 2, Des derniers temps de l'âge seigneurial aux preludes de l'âge industriel (1660–1789). Paris, 1970. Still the best overview of French transport in relation to the economy during the Old Regime.
Charbon, Paul. Au temps des malles-postes et des diligences. Histoire des transports publics et de poste du XVIIe au XIXe siècle. Paris, 1979. Contains a brief history of the French postal service and numerous illustrations of postal carriages.
Chartier, Roger, Alain Boureau, and Cécile Dauphin, eds. Correspondence: Models of Letter-Writing from the Middle Ages to the Nineteenth Century. Translated by Christopher Woodall. Princeton, 1997. Translation of La correspondance: Les usages de la letters au XIXe siècle.
Cohen, Elizabeth S. "Between Oral and Written Culture: The Social Meaning of an Illustrated Love Letter." In Culture and Identity in Early Modern Europe (1500–1800): Essays in Honor of Natalie Zemon Davis, edited by Barbara B. Diefendorf and Carla Hesse, pp. 181–201. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1993. An example of the way in which sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European culture was still very much in transition from an oral to a written culture.
Darnton, Robert. "An Early Information Society: News and the Media in Eighteenth-Century Paris." American Historical Review 105, no. 1 (February 2000): 1–35. Discusses the circulation of information via a wide variety of media, from spoken gossip to newspaper, poems, and books.
De Vries, Jan. The Dutch Rural Economy in the Golden Age, 1500–1700. New Haven, 1974. Especially important for communication and transportation history in this work is de Vries's discussion of the role of the peat industry in the development of the Dutch canal system in the early modern period.
——. Economy of Europe in an Age of Crisis, 1600–1750. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1976. Excellent comparative history of early modern European economies, in which de Vries points out the role of transportation, or the lack therein, in the relative development or retardation of European countries.
De Vries, Jan, and Ad van der Woude. The First Modern Economy: Success, Failure, and Perseverance of the Dutch Economy, 1500–1815. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1997. A comprehensive survey of the early modern Dutch economy, including its transportation system.
Dewald, Jonathan. Aristocratic Experience and the Origins of Modern Culture: France, 1570–1715. Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1993. A thoughtful discussion of aristocratic culture and education, including the importance of letter writing.
Furet, François, and Jacques Ozouf, eds. Reading and Writing: Literacy in France from Calvin to Jules Ferry. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1982. Translation of Lire et écrire: L'alphabétisation des français de Calvin à Jules Ferry. The best overview of French literacy and its spread during the early modern and modern eras.
Guillerme, AndréE. The Age of Water: The Urban Environment in the North of France, A . D . 300–1800. College Station, Tex., 1988. Translation of Les temps de l'eau: La cité, l'eau et les techniques. An unusual overview of urban hydrographic systems, including canals. A pioneering work in urban environmental history.
Jeannin, Pierre. "Guides de voyage et manuels pour marchands." In Voyager à la Renaissance. Actes du colloque de Tours 30 juin–13 juillet 1983, edited by Jean Céard and Jean-Claude Margolin, pp. 159–171. Paris, 1987. Among the many fascinating topics covered in this book is Jeannin's discussion of handbooks and travel guides published for early modern merchants.
——. Marchands du Nord: Espaces et traffics à l'époque moderne. Paris, 1996. This book contains a wealth of information about trade and travel in the North and Baltic Sea regions.
Maistre, André. Le canal des Deux-Mers: Canal royal du Languedoc, 1666–1810. Toulouse, 1968. The most complete and authoritative study of the building of the Canal du Midi.
Nordman, Daniel. "Sauf-conduits et passeports en France à la renaissance." In Voyager à la Renaissance. Actes du colloque de Tours 30 juin–13 juillet 1983. edited by Jean Céard et Jean-Claude Margolin, pp. 145–159. Paris, 1987. Examines another important facet of early modern travel, the necessity of obtaining passports and safe-conducts when crossing frontiers, and frequently in crossing internal boundaries as well.
Nussdorfer, Laurie. "Writing and the Power of Speech: Notaries and Artisans in Baroque Rome." In Culture and Identity in Early Modern Europe (1500–1800): Essays in Honor of Natalie Zemon Davis, edited by Barbara B. Diefendorf and Carla Hesse, pp. 103–118. Ann Arbor, Mich., 1993. Analyzes the ways in which illiterate Romans interacted with the world of writing, and the comparative powers of spoken and written words.
Ozment, Steven. Magdalena and Balthasar: An Intimate Portrait of Life in 16th-Century Europe Revealed in the Letters of a Nuremberg Husband and Wife. New York, 1986. This gem of a book is replete with examples of letters sent between a sixteenth-century merchant and his wife.
Poston, M. M., and H. J. Habakkuk, eds. The Cambridge Economic History of Europe. Vol. 4, The Economy of Expanding Europe in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, and Vol. 5, The Economic Organization of Early Modern Europe, edited by E. E. Rich and Charles H. Wilson. 2nd ed. Cambridge, U.K., 1966–. Although slightly dated, both volumes contain excellent discussions of the role of transport in Europe's economic development.
Smith, Woodruff D. "The Function of Commercial Centers in the Modernization of European Capitalism: Amsterdam as an Information Exchange in the Seventeenth Century." Journal of Economic History 44, no. 4 (December 1984): 985–1005. Discusses the role of Amsterdam as a communications center disseminating business information.
Szostak, Rick. The Role of Transportation in the Industrial Revolution: A Comparison of England and France. Montreal and Buffalo, 1991. Szostak argues, not entirely convincingly, that England's primacy in the industrial revolution compared to France was largely the result of England's far superior transportation infrastructure.
Watt, Tessa. Cheap Print and Popular Piety 1550–1640. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1991. Discusses the access of ordinary people to print communication in the early modern period, and its effects on popular piety.
Witt, Ronald G. "Medieval 'Ars Dictaminis' and the Beginnings of Humanism: A New Construction of the Problem." Renaissance Quarterly 35 (1982): 16–35. Witt analyzes the role of the letter in the early development of humanist thought.
Gayle K. Brunelle