Reason of State, Propaganda, and the Thirty Years' War: An Unknown Translation by Thomas Hobbes ; Noel Malcolm

By Noel Malcolm | Go to book overview

3
The ‘Secretissima instructio’ Texts

WHAT sort of text, then, was the Altera secretissima instructio, and why was it thought so worthy of attention? It was in fact the third in a sequence of pamphlets (though its title, Altera…, correctly translated by Hobbes as ‘A second …’, suggests that its author was unaware of the second in the sequence); the first, entitled Secretissima instructio, had achieved considerable notoriety, becoming one of Europe’s most widely read works of political propaganda after its first publication in 1620.

Since the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War in 1618, a flood of pamphlets, newsletters, and broadsheets, both informative and polemical, had poured from the presses. While it might be an exaggeration to speak of a Europe-wide public opinion, it is clear that there were publics in all of the relevant European states whose opinions were thought to matter: considerable efforts were made by rulers and political leaders both to control the flow of such publications and to insert into it works supportive of their own policies. A whole gamut of publications was thus produced, ranging from crude satirical broadsheets to official declarations and Latin treatises by scholars.1 Readers of all kinds wanted

1 No Europe-wide overview of this material is available, nor would one be easy to form. The best general account of the writing and circulation of such propaganda is P. Schmidt, Spanische Universalmonarchie oder ‘teutsche Libertet’: das spanische Imperium in der Propaganda des Dreissigjährigen Krieges (Stuttgart, 2001), pp. 51–94. Specific studies include R. Koser, Die Kanzleienstreit: ein Beitrag zur Quellenkunde der Geschichte des dreissigjährigen Krieges (Halle, 1874); M. Grünbaum, Uber die Publicistik des dreis sigjährigen Krieges von 1626–1629 (Halle, 1880); G. Gebauer, Die Publicistik uber den böhmischen Aufstand von 1618 (Halle, 1892); F. Dahl, ‘Gustav II Adolf i samtida engelska ettbladstryck’, Nordisk tidskrift för bok- och biblioteksväsen, 25 (1938), pp. 173–89; E. A. Beller, Propaganda in Germany during the Thirty Years’ War (Princeton, 1940); D. Böttcher, ‘Propaganda und öffentliche Meinung im protestantischen Deutschland, 1628–1636’, Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, 44 (1953), pp. 181–203, and 45 (1954), pp. 83–99; G. Rystad, Kriegsnachrichten und Propaganda während des dreissigjährigen Krieges: die Schlacht bei Nördlingen in den gleichzeitigen, gedruckten Kriegsberichten (Lund, 1960); A. E. C. Simoni, ‘Poems, Pictures and the Press: Observations on some Abraham Verhoeven Newsletters (1620–1621)’, in F. de Nave, ed., Liber amicorum Leon Voet

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