[Wars and] rumours of wars


Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
What do we know about hearsay and rumour of distant wars, especially in the pre-modern context? Are there any notable ethnographic studies of, say, 17th c. German peasants and what sort of information was available to them on conflicts nearby and afar? How fast does this information travel, and how accurately is it transmitted?


Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
Western Eurasia
Braudel in the Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century, Vol. 1: The Structures of Everyday Life
writes that with horses, coaches, runners and ships as a general rule at most 100 kms could be covered within 24 hours, and higher speeds were very infrequent and luxurious.

These maps are also from the book:

veniceletters1.jpg veniceletters2.jpg
The speed at which news reached Venice

The isochronic lines indicate on all three diagrams the time taken in weeks for letters to reach
Map I is based on P. Sardella's work on Sanudo's diaries, c. 1 500 (in fact 1496- 1 5 3 3 ) . Maps
2 and 3 are based on the manuscript Venetian gazettes in the Public Record Office in London.
Calculations by F.e. Spooner.
The shaded grey lines are wider where average speeds were faster. Variations in speed from
one map to another may be very great on certain routes. They were the result of employing
more couriers in urgent circumstances. On the whole the slowest routes in Map 3 match the
slowest routes in Map I, whereas the times taken are sometimes much shorter in Map 2. There
is nothing hard and fast about these calculations. In theory, speeds should be compared over
areas bounded by isochronic contours of the same order of size. But it is not possible to
define such areas with the necessary precision. However, if one attempts to superimpose them
one on the other, they do seem to be roughly equivalent, extensions in one direction being
compensated for by shortfalls in another. I need hardly add that calculating daily speeds from
surface areas in kilometres requires some preliminary precautions.

then of course in case of a village the infromation flow could be greatly modified by its remoteness, was it close to a main road, how often did merchants visit it, its distance from the closest market town... and the accuracy of the information could be a totally different matter by the time the news have finally reached Hans the peasant working on the fields. Or i guess Sundays could be the main days after the mass when news were exchanged between the villagers?


Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
Western Eurasia
What do those lines mean exactly? Is it a week between every line? Without any scale at all it's kind of meaningless
Yes approximately 1 week between every line. So for example Genoa and Rome are within the 1 week line to Venice, Marseilles or Vienna are around 2 weeks from Venice on the first map (1500) etc.

Unfortunetly i took this map from the English edition i have on my computer, i have the book in print too in my mother tongue and there the maps are better, that also have the shaded straight grey lines on it to show where average speeds were faster , those are missing from this one.

But found the same maps in better quality here, also showing those grey lines.

History 301 Week 1

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