Research / Projects

Information Infrastructure in the Baltic Area. Nodes, News and News Agents, c. 1650 - 1700

Early modern societies experienced a dynamic development, which in many respects can be explained with the formation of an infrastructure for information, equalling the importance of the internet for today’s globalized world. Seventeenth century’s media revolution (mainly founded on postal services, printed and manuscript news forms) multiplied the flow of information accessible for the contemporaries. This caused a modernization on different levels of society. Information itself turned into a commodity, traded on a vastly growing news market in certain cities, where information experts met specific needs for information. The project analyses this change and its impact on the integration of the Baltic Sea Area.

Focus lies on central nodes of this information infrastructure in the Baltic Area, the cities of Stockholm, Riga, Hamburg and Gdansk. They created a cross border infrastructure for information, on behalf and with the protection of the state. Its organisation, however, lay in the hands of a group of information experts, system builders, who answered for the organizational and economic implementation of the infrastructure. They handled different news forms and thus created a news culture, which served the needs of the state and the interests of private persons. Political and economic aspects influenced this development.

Printed as well as manuscript newspapers, public as well as exclusive news forms were part of a media system, which entailed a substantial reduction of the costs of information. Still, by way of the vastly growing output of information the gains were substantial. New professions as well as new demands arose, enhancing a news flow, which for a long time was shaped – although not ultimately hindered – by the state’s resp. town council’s censorship.

The project thus combines different perspectives from economic history and media sociology. The contemporary information infrastructure implemented a new environment with the help of organizational reforms and new modes of communication. It created a constructed environment, which was necessary to uphold the flow of information in a reliable and economically sound way. 


This study analyses the administrative and economic career of Francesco De Gratta (1613–1676) as Royal Postmaster, Royal Secretary, and trader within the postal and fiscal systems of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. This investigation focuses mainly on his network and career strategies and is based on various sources from a number of European archives and libraries, mainly those situated in Italy, Poland and Germany.The study presents the family De Gratta and the familial social actions that Francesco used in order to root his children and family in the Polish-Lithuanian noble culture. Next, the analysis shows that the career of Francesco De Gratta was inextricably correlated with the establishment of the early modern royal postal system in Gdańsk (the city of Gdańsk fulfilled an important bridging role within the Poland-Lithuanian Commonwealth) as well as his close contacts with different Polish kings and queens.The career followed distinct stages, tying him ever closer with the Crown, the nobility as well as the merchants in Gdańsk. It all started with his position as Head Postmaster in Gdańsk, in 1654. In 1661, he became Postmaster General of Royal Prussia, Courland, Semigallia and Livonia. After these initial steps, Francesco immersed in creditor activities and close contacts with the Royal Prussian cities, royal authorities, and not the least different Polish mint masters. He also got involved in the potash trade with his later son-in-law Jan Wawrzyniec Wodzicki, first as his factor and later as a co-owner of Wodzicki’s company. The study finally traces his social and economic advancement by the analysis of Francesco De Gratta’s legacies and their importance for his heirs’ social status.The summary compares the career of Francesco De Gratta with that of other postmasters and mint masters of Italian origin in Poland-Lithuania.

AuthorPublishing yearSubject

Heiko Droste

Michal Salamonik

Research linked to the Baltic region and Eastern Europe



School of Historical and Contemporary Studies

Research area for doctoral studies

Historical Studies



Project Manager

Heiko Droste
Professor, Professor
School of Historical and Contemporary Studies

More information

Project start: 2012
Project end: 2016

Financier: Östersjöstiftelsen

Research linked to the Baltic Sea region and Eastern Europe: Yes

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Subjects to which the project is linked

School/centre to which the project is linked

Research area for doctoral studies to which the project is linked