In February of this year I became one of CREATE’s pre-PhD students. My focus was on Historical Network Analysis for which I analysed correspondences between the Dutch Republic and Italy in the early modern period. This project allowed me not only to delve into data curation but also to combine it with hands-one archival research in various archives in Italy and the Netherlands. This has strengthened my position to discuss all the advantages and implications digital methods have in the process of knowledge production. Based on this experience I wrote a research project for a PhD position in Modern and Contemporary History at the esteemed institute of the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa. The project describes my interest in the development of networks and strategies in response to contrasting political and religious realities within early modern society. It questions in which ways Italian and Dutch scholars and booksellers managed to connect two distinct confessional areas, in this case the Calvinist Dutch Republic and Catholic Tuscany, in order to facilitate the transfer of knowledge. How could intellectual exchanges between these two regions maintain a balance between, on the one hand, the liberty to distribute (prohibited) books and to express controversial ideas and, on the other, social control and the need to avoid objections of powerful political and religious institutions and individuals? In order to answer this question I suggested using a network study of epistolary exchanges. Awaiting the outcome with tension, they finally invited me Wednesday the 23th of September for an interview, praising the proposal for its quality of the combination of generic computer assisted methods with very close reading of archival sources (thanks CREATE!). Last Friday I received the eagerly awaited news that I became one of the four PhD students!
Ingeborg van Vugt