Welcome to the website of the Textual Ambassadors Research Network, which was dedicated to investigating cultures of diplomacy and literary writing across the early modern world. 

Texts played a crucial part in diplomatic practice between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. Works of literature were sent as diplomatic gifts. Dramatic and poetic productions at court were invested with diplomatic meaning. Diplomats were writers, patrons and consumers of all kinds of literary works. As public and private figures, they moved books across borders. Embassies were sites of cultural exchange and literary texts – whether printed, manuscript or oral – became an important tool in what we now call cultural diplomacy. These ‘textual ambassadors’ were critical in communicating and mediating cultural difference both within Europe and between Europe and the wider world.

Our network investigated these interlocking literary and diplomatic cultures through four workshops and one conference. It brought together experts in diplomatic history, literary criticism and theory, cultural studies, court studies, book history and ethnographic literature. This international and interdisciplinary network was organised by Tracey Sowerby (Oxford) and Joanna Craigwood (Cambridge). Although our network activities are now over, our members continue to work in this area.

Explore this website to read about our events, take a tour of our online exhibition, find out more about the members of the network, or learn more about the role of the spoken and written word in cultural diplomacy. Contact us with comments. You can also read about the publications arising from the project.

This network was funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council under its ‘translating cultures’ research theme (AH/K001930/1). Two of our Oxford events were also supported by the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) and a third was supported by Keble College, Oxford. Our conference received additional support from the Society for Renaissance Studies.