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Post Offices of Europe 18th – 21st Century

A Comparative History


Edited By Muriel Le Roux and Sébastien Richez

The cursus publicus, established by the Roman Empire to connect all its conquered territories, may be considered to be the ancestor of all modern post offices. Therefore, mail service networks are part of an organization, dating from Antiquity, which is common to the entire European community.
From the 18 th century onwards, the French mail service network may be divided into three successive phases. First, the consolidation of the transportation system that was being set up. Second, the development of the system’s ability to deal with increasing traffic (through broader human resources). Thirdly, the diversification of its operations and the development of its technical modernisation.
What was the situation in other European countries? Are there similarities and differences in how their networks were set up and organized? Finally, how did European Post Offices cooperate with each other in spite of their differences?
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Postal Espionage in the 18th Century Denmark: Sune Christian Pedersen


Sune Christian PEDERSEN

In 2002 Post & Tele Museum in Copenhagen opened a special exhibition about the use of “secret communication.” Cryptography and espionage, communication during war and cold war, and the contemporary debate on electronic surveillance of citizens in the era of terrorism were the main topics of the exhibition. As a natural part of our work in connection with the exhibition we searched our own collections for objects reflecting the implication of the post and telecommunication services in “secret communication.”1

While the collections did not show much sign of postal espionage, the National Archives revealed substantial and interesting groups of sources with which owing to the nature of the project we had neither time nor possibility to go into in depth. These documents were the direct source of inspiration for a PhD project about “post espionage” in the 18th Century, which I commenced in October 2004. It is the aim of this project to examine and discuss the meaning and impact of the postal service in relation to the intelligence and secret service of the government in 18th century Denmark with a comparative view to examining the situation in other European states, and similarly to discuss how the demands for the subtle activities of intelligence affected the postal services in the period.

The phrase “post espionage” covers the secret surveillance of letters as opposed to “censorship,” which is carried out more openly. While the boundaries of the two phenomena can be...

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