Samuli Kaislaniemi

Sam Kaislaniemi defended his PhD in December 2017 (his thesis, Reconstructing Merchant Multilingualism: Lexical Studies of Early English East India Company Correspondence, is">available as a pdf). He works on early modern English letters, being mostly interested in code-switching, and more recently in letterlocking. Sam is a member of the STRATAS project (2016-2019), in which he is trying to develop a hierarchy of the philological reliability of editions of historical correspondence. He is also a co-compiler of the Corpora of Early English Correspondence (CEEC). If you see him in a British archive, buy him a cup of tea. If you see him on Twitter, tell him to get off the internet and go and read a book or something.

Contact information


PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher

E-mail: samuli.kaislaniemi(at)
Twitter: @samklai

Research interests

My research interests stem from a fascination with the correspondence of the early English East India Company (EIC), 1600–1650. I have primarily been working on language contact between Early Modern Englishmen and natives in maritime Asia, as reflected in the letters by EIC employees. I have also done some work on Early Modern correspondence networks, particularly in the complex relationships of commerce, intelligence and patronage evident in intelligence networks. I have a strong interest in manuscript studies and palaeography of Early Modern letters. And finally, I also work on editing historical correspondence, and developing electronic resources and tools for the humanities.

Current research

I defended my PhD thesis, Reconstructing Merchant Multilingualism: Lexical Studies of Early English East India Company Correspondence, in December 2017. It is available as a pdf here.

The focus of my thesis is the relationship of early East India Company and its employees to foreign languages. My main approach is historical lexicology and lexicography, but I also draw on historical code-switching, historical sociolinguistics and corpus linguistics, as well as literary studies and Early Modern cultural history.

My thesis is based on five articles. The first looks at Japanese loanwords used by the EIC merchants in Japan 1613–1623. The second explores Early Modern English words for 'interpreter', focussing on early EIC correspondence and journals. The third illustrates the linguistic creativity of early EIC merchants as shown through the example of a rare word found in their correspondence, a word which elsewhere occurs only in satirical bawdy texts. The fourth discusses the code-switching practices of the EIC merchants in Japan from the viewpoint of communities of practice. And the fifth is an interdisciplinary essay illustrating how a combination of quantitative and qualitative methodologies gives us (more) robust results when investigating historical multilingualism.

My thesis also has a timeline of the English East India Company and language (in ch. 2), a lengthy discussion of the philological quality of the printed editions used to compile the Corpus of Early English Correspondence (in ch. 4), and several appendices relating to the data surveyed in the articles.

Other research

Aside from my PhD thesis, I have been working on several other projects.

The primary are the early letters of Richard Cocks (1600–1610): Cocks (bap. 1565, d. 1624; ODNB entry) was an English merchant, and is known for later heading the East India Company trading post in Japan 1613–1623, but from 1603 to 1608 he lived in Bayonne in France near the Spanish border, from whence he wrote intelligence (or 'spy') letters to Thomas Wilson (b. c. 1562, d. 1629; ODNB entry), a secretary of Sir Robert Cecil. (You can view a map of the primary locations here). About one hundred of these letters survive, mainly in the UK National Archives among the State Papers Foreign. My research is a detailed analysis of the material aspects of Early Modern letter-writing, using Cocks's letters as a case study; and an investigation of information transfer in and the mechanics of correspondence of this intelligence network, particularly with reference to the role Cocks plays in it. I hope to publish the letters as a digital edition, based on principles developed in the DECL project (and more fully by Marttila 2014).

I have also been working on the connections of script and language in Early Modern English letters, and have published an article on the topic. I hope to continue working on palaeographical topics over the next few years.

One of my long-term interests is in mapping correspondence. In particular, in recreating the long-distance correspondence networks of the early East India Company, 1600–1630, of which I hope eventually to create an interactive map which will display the motions of the fleet in real time. I have already created a database of the motions of the East India Company fleet for the period, and I have also used Google Maps to create a map (shown on the right) in which I chart relevant locations. This project is presently on hiatus, but I hope to return to it once my PhD is done.

I have also toyed with transferring Early Modern postal maps into Google Maps - something I hope to do some proper work on in the future. You can see an example here: posts from Paris to Bayonne, c. 1640.

Research profile in TUHAT

Recent publications