Mundane Cryptography: Toward a Cultural History of Cryptography


  • Clément Poupard



Cryptography, Secret Writing Mnemonics, Cultural history, The Art of Memory, Epistemology, Methodology


This paper aims to explore another way to study the history of cryptography. Following Benedek Láng’s research program from Real Life Cryptologyy, it offers an alternative method to contextualize cryptographic practices inside a broader history of secrecy, inside the social and cultural setting of the studied society. To do so, this paper suggests utilizing approaches from the French cultural history and, firstly, to recontextualize the social situation of the users of cryptography, including those who do not belong to an elite; secondly, to use a broad variety of sources, including sources which are not political or diplomatic, nor secret writing manuals. The examples of the cryptographic practices of mnemonic teachers and authors illustrate this methodology and reveal hitherto unstudied mundane cryptographic practices.