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Nadine Akkerman. Photograph by Rob Blackham

Akkerman, Nadine


Nadine Akkerman, born in Velsen, the Netherlands, in 1978. Ph.D. from VU University Amsterdam. Lecturer in Early Modern English Literature at Leiden University.

Fellow (1 September 2015 – 30 June 2016)

Visualizing Cryptographic Networks of Spies, Diplomats and Scientists, 1603-1701

Research Question

The analysis of early modern cipher keys can make hidden networks visible, not only those of spies, but also those of diplomats, military leaders and scientists.

Project Description

“Visualizing Cryptographic Networks” will enhance the completion of a monograph with the design of a web-laboratory.

My monograph argues that the role of female spies in seventeenth-century Europe was much more extensive than hitherto assumed. The male world of the spy was permeated by women. During my research, analyzing cipher keys unearthed proof of female intelligencers, and the wider networks of which they formed a part, the hubs where intelligence circulated. Cryptography is the preferred language not only of spies, but also of diplomats, military leaders and scientists. I plan to design an interactive web laboratory, in which cipher keys can be added, stored, shared, broken and searched, a tool which will enable scholars from different fields to map the operations of hidden networks.

Selected Publications

1) The Correspondence of Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia (3 vols, 2 published to date; Oxford University Press, 2011 – )

2) The Politics of Female Households: Early Modern Ladies-in-Waiting across Europe [Rulers & Elite, Volume 4], eds Nadine Akkerman and Birgit Houben (Leiden: Brill, 2013)

3) “The Postmistress, The Diplomat, and a Black Chamber? Alexandrine of Taxis, Sir Balthazar Gerbier and the Power of Postal Control”. In: Robyn Adams & Rosanna Cox, eds, Diplomacy and Early Modern Culture (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011): 172-188.

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