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Carlo Denina’s Lettres Critiques: Transnational History in an Age of Information Overload

In: Journal of Early Modern History
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  • 1 Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge
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Abstract

This article recovers the transnational historical approach of the eighteenth-century Piedmontese thinker Carlo Denina (1731-1813) and his Lettres Critiques. The Lettres, which have remained largely overlooked to this day, addressed a number of cultural debates on the epistemology of the Encyclopédie, the art of translation, and European geopolitics, by drawing on a transnational approach to the history of Europe. This article frames Denina’s transnational gaze in the context of early modern concerns over information overload and eighteenth-century ideas of cultural superiority and alterity. The article follows the ways the Lettres Critiques addressed three querelles: Morvilliers’ 1782 rhetorical attack on Spain, German debates on the merits of French culture and the nature of knowledge, and Madrid’s protracted response to William Robertson’s History of America (1777). The article sheds light on an overlooked eighteenth-century vision of transnational history as a solution to embryonic forms of nationalism and the politicization of knowledge.

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