Diplomacy and Culture in the Early Modern World

Registration for our conference has now closed.

The conference builds upon the recent ‘cultural turn’ in diplomatic studies that has seen more innovative, interdisciplinary approaches to a subject that was once viewed in heavily bureaucratic and constitutional terms. Scholars are increasingly appreciating the importance of ritual and other forms of symbolic communication in diplomatic practices and the role of diplomatic processes in cultural exchanges. Diplomats were important political brokers whose actions could have profound implications for international relations, but they played an equally important role in the transfer and adaptation of cultural ideas and artefacts through their activities as cultural agents, authors and brokers. The profound impact of diplomacy on culture in this period is, moreover, seen in the increasing prominence of representations of diplomacy in literature and a range of other media. The aim of this conference is to further our understanding of early modern diplomatic practices, of the dynamics of diplomatic exchanges both within and without Europe, and how diplomatic ideas and practices interacted with other cultural and political processes.

The keynote lecture ‘Diplomacy as a Social Practice: Recent Research Perspectives’ will be delivered by Professor Christian Windler (Bern). The conference will feature two panel discussions: one on the impact of the ‘diplomatic moment’ and another on future directions in diplomatic studies. Papers and panels will address aspects of diplomatic culture in Europe and the wider world including gender, gifts, material culture, the dissemination of information, archival practices, international law, cross cultural exchanges and translation, as well as the impact of diplomacy on literary writing and representations of diplomacy. The conference programme is now available as are the paper abstracts.

SRS logoWe are grateful to TORCH for sponsoring this event. Thanks to the generosity of the Society for Renaissance Studies we have been able to provide a number of travel bursaries to doctoral students.

Workshop 2 (Theories and Methods) Programme

See also our Textual Ambassadors Workshop Two Summary. This workshop was funded by the AHRC.

Monday 14 April

9.30-10.00:      Arrival and coffee

10.00-10.30:    Welcome and introductions

10.30-12.00:    Session 1: Translation
José María Perez Fernandez, Rebekah Clements, Warren Boutcher, Edward Holberton. Chair: Charles Forsdick.

12.00-12.45:    Lunch

12.45- 14.15:   Session 2: Material Texts
Tracey Sowerby, William Rossiter, Robyn Adams, Joad Raymond. Chair: Glenn Richardson.

14.15-14.30:    Coffee

14.30-16.00:   Session 3: Forms of Representation
Christine Vogel, Jason Powell (via Skype), Guido Van Meersbergen, Edward Wilson-Lee. Chair: Tracey Sowerby.

16.00-16.15:    Coffee

16.15-17.45:    Session 4: Literary-diplomatic time and space.
Jane Newman (via Skype), Timothy Hampton (via Skype), Susan Brigden (in absentia). Chair: Alexander Samson.

19.30-21.30:    Conference dinner

Tuesday 15 April

9.00-10.30:      Session 5: Cultural encounters
Andre Krischer, Jan Hennings, Alexander Samson, Glenn Richardson. Chair: Christine Vogel.

10.30-11.00     Coffee

11.00-12.30:    Session 6: Future of the field
Roundtable discussion chaired by Joanna Craigwood and Tracey Sowerby.

12.30-13.30:    Lunch

13.30-15.00:    Session 7: Law, Justice and Literariness
Mark Netzloff (via Skype), John Watkins, Joanna Craigwood. Chair: Edward Holberton.

15.00-15.30:    Concluding remarks

Workshop 2: Theories and Methods

Location: Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge.  Dates: 14-15 April 2014

The aim of this two-day workshop was to develop and assess methods of analysis and  theoretical approaches for future research on intersections of literature and diplomacy.

For the programme see here. For a report on our findings download our Textual Ambassadors Workshop Two Summary.

The workshop focused on how best to approach research in the three related areas under investigation by this network: the impact of changes in the literary sphere on diplomatic culture; the role of texts in diplomacy and diplomatic practice, particularly those that operated as ‘textual ambassadors’; and the impact of changes in diplomatic practice on literary production. Building on research priorities identified at workshop one and online, it  used discussion around early modern examples to ask:

  • What aspects of this field require new analytical methods or fuller understanding?
  • What are the benefits and shortcomings of existing analytical and theoretical models and how might these be developed in profitable directions?
  • How can we effectively utilise applicable methodological or theoretical paradigms from other research fields?
  • What can our new methodological and theoretical models add to our understanding of the relationship between literature and diplomacy?
  • How should we further refine the innovative, interdisciplinary theoretical and methodological approaches that we are trialling?
  • What does each discipline bring to the field that is unique, and how can these contributions be combined to offer new insights not possible from just one of these disciplinary perspectives?
  • What more do we need? How might we begin to construct entirely new models for thinking about literature and diplomacy?

The format of the workshop was designed to support innovative thought and the informal and experimental exchange of ideas surrounding the questions set out above. The heart of the workshop comprised a combination of short (10-minute) stimulus papers given by participants and roundtable discussions of short extracts from early modern texts presented by participants. The papers were thought-pieces trialling approaches to early modern literature and diplomacy rather than expositions of completed research and were also followed by discussion. Extracts and notes for the thought-pieces were shared before the workshop using the online forum.

This workshop ultimately sought to bring greater definition to this growing field of enquiry and formed the basis for the the papers presented at the network’s final conference and the essay collection emerging from the network.

This workshop was funded by the AHRC.


Mapping the Field programme

Friday 9 August

9.30 Welcome and introductions

10.00 Panel one: chair Tracey Sowerby

Papers by Timothy Hampton (UC Berkeley), Joanna Craigwood
(Cambridge), and Diego Pirillo (UC Berkeley)

11.20 Coffee

11.50 Panel two: chair Jan Hennings

Papers by Christopher Warren (Carnegie Mellon), Edward
Holberton (Cambridge), and André Krisher (Münster)

1.10 Lunch

2.10 Panel three: chair Jo Craigwood

Papers by Warren Boutcher (QMUL), Edward Wilson Lee
(Cambridge), Joad Raymond (QMUL)

3.30 Coffee

4.00-4.45 Discussion of the day’s papers: chair Tracey


Saturday 10 August

9.30 Panel four: chair TBC

Papers by Susan Brigden (Oxford), Jason Powell (St Joseph’s
University), and Will Rossiter (Liverpool Hope)

10.50 Coffee

11.20-12.40 Panel five: chair Timothy Hampton

Papers by Nandini Das (Liverpool), Jan Hennings (Oxford),
and José Maria Pérez Fernandez (Granada)

12.40-1.40 lunch

1.40-3.00 Panel six: chair Susan Brigden

Papers by John Watkins (University of Minnesota), Glenn
Richardson (St Mary’s University College), and Tracey Sowerby (Oxford)

3.00-3.45 discussion: chair Jo Craigwood


Workshop: Mapping the Field

Location:University of Oxford;   Dates:9-10 August 2013

Programme available here.

The aim of this two-day workshop was to identify productive avenues for future research on the interrelationship between literature and diplomacy in the early modern world.

This workshop brought together experts in history, literary studies, and cultural studies to address the intersections of literature and diplomacy. Recent research within both historical and literary disciplines has highlighted an urgent need for deeper investigation into the interlocking literary and diplomatic cultures of the global Renaissance. Historians and international relations scholars have called for new approaches to diplomatic studies, but such historical reassessments have left the role of literature relatively underexplored. Meanwhile Timothy Hampton’s Fictions of Embassy (2009) has compellingly demonstrated a powerful relationship between developments in Renaissance diplomacy and the composition, structures, concerns, tropes and even genres of European literatures.

At this workshop network members will introduce their research via short papers and reflect on productive future directions for further study in this important emerging field. Papers and discussions at the workshop asked:

  • What archival and other resources have untapped potential?
  • What kinds of textual exchanges are understudied?
  • What current assumptions require further critical reflection?
  • What are the key gaps in our thinking about this field?
  • What can each discipline contribute to our understanding of the relationship between literary and diplomatic cultures?
  • How might developments in literary studies help us reassess early modern diplomacy?
  • How might recent insights into early modern diplomatic practice inform analyses of early modern literary texts?
  • Which aspects of the field most urgently require new analytical methods and more developed theoretical approaches?

The ultimate aim of this workshop was to identify strategic questions and research priorities for future work in this important emerging area. We also aimed to identify innovative approaches that can be further discussed and developed at workshop two.

The Textual Ambassadors Workshop One Summary draws out themes that emerged in the course of our discussions and gives a taste of the individual papers. Tracey’s introductory survey of the state of the field outlines the various trends in historical and literary studies that make the network timely. You can also see Joad Raymond’s presentation on news and diplomacy here.

This workshop was sponsored by the AHRC and the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities.