Disasters that made the world shudder is the evocative title of the paper presented by Domenico Cecere on 30th January 2024 in the framework of the International seminar Early Modern Italian World organized by the Oxford University, in conjunction with the Iberian History Seminar. This cycle of events hosts discussions about any aspect of the world of Italian culture and society in the period 1400-1800.

The subtitle of the presentation makes explicit the research question that the historian addressed: How extreme events redefined communication and politics in the Spanish Monarchy.

Cecere’s analysis focused on the early 17th century, a period when improved logistics and postal networks, along with the increasing volume of news, spurred an intensification in its dissemination.

The ‘relaciones’ recounting extraordinary, miraculous, or tragic events emerged as the most popular vehicle for news, as evidenced by the extensive dissemination of reports about various serious disasters that occurred in both the American and Italian territories of the Spanish Monarchy.

Examining the extensive and diverse documentation generated by this heightened interest in disasters reveals how information from the epicentre was re-elaborated as it travelled through official and unofficial channels to reach decision-makers. By comparing government channels with other channels – such as those used by the Church – Cecere analysed the mutual interactions between the evolving role of government bodies in handling emergencies and changes in the reporting and interpretation of disasters.

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