Enigmatic Cultures of Cryptography, 1603-1642


It is commonly assumed that the use of cryptography disappeared in English manuscript newsletters from 1603 to 1642. After all, writers only needed to employ secret modes of writing during times of crises, and not during relatively peaceful times. This view, however, is erroneous: Firstly, it ignores that, unlike England and Scotland, the rest of Europe had slipped into the throes of war. Secondly, it overlooks the possibility that cryptography might also have had a social function, to bind members into a group or faction, creating its own secretive language.

The unpublished letters of Elizabeth Stuart reflect an air of secrecy. This view of them radically upsets conventional accounts of cryptography in newsletters. As editor of Elizabeth's correspondence for Oxford University Press, I have discovered that also letters written between 1603 and 1642 are saturated with cryptography, belying the earlier supposition that it had disappeared: the circle uses ciphers, codes, riddles and invisible ink. The aim of my research is to analyse, at one of Europe's premier centers of epistolary research, what the role of cryptography is in these letters, and to assess what - next to the level of protecting information - might have been other profound reasons for its use.


Boek of monografie

  • N.N.W. Akkerman(2015): The Correspondence of Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia pp. 996 , Oxford

Hoofdstuk in boek

  • A Gordon, J Daybell, NNW Akkerman(2016): Cultures of Correspondence in Early Modern Britain pp. 69 - 84 , Philadelphia

Professionele publicatie


  • (2009): Geheimtaal
  • (2009): Brieven in geheimtaal
  • (2010): Opgelet: vrouwelijke spionnen!
  • (2010): Interview met Nadine Akkerman
  • (2010): Willem van Nassov
  • (2010): Geheimtaal voor de elite





Dr. N.N.W. Akkerman

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Leiden, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS)


Dr. N.N.W. Akkerman


01/02/2010 tot 28/06/2011