Textual Ambassadors - Cultures of Diplomacy and Literary Writing in the Early Modern World

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: History Faculty

Abstract

In the early modern period literary texts - printed, manuscript, and oral - played a crucial part in diplomatic practice. Embassies were sites of cultural exchange and literature was a frequent tool in what we would now call cultural diplomacy. Professionally diplomats used a wide range of literary texts, texts which were critical in communicating and mediating cultural difference. Works of literature were sent as diplomatic gifts, while dramatic and poetic productions at court were invested with diplomatic meaning. As public and private figures diplomats moved texts across borders. They were writers, patrons and consumers of a diverse range of literature and were profoundly influenced by the literary cultures they encountered abroad. Although cultural artefacts, including literature, became increasingly important in diplomatic practice as protocol developed, the mechanisms and meaning of such cross-cultural diplomatic exchanges remain poorly understood, as does their impact on literary culture. This was a formative period in the development of diplomatic structures and assumptions in an ever more global context: the geographical scope of individual countries' diplomatic activity expanded considerably and rulers increasingly sent longer-term embassies, often adopting the use of resident ambassadors, who provided continuous representation of their interests abroad. It is increasingly apparent that we can only truly understand both early modern diplomacy and Renaissance literary culture through broader and deeper investigation into the interlocking literary and diplomatic cultures of the global Renaissance. As the spoken and written word remains central to diplomatic practice, this network will produce research with implications for the understanding of cultural diplomacy today.
'Textual Ambassadors' will provide urgently needed definition to a burgeoning, but methodologically and theoretically underdeveloped field. Primarily focussing on developments within Europe and Russia c.1450-1720, it will also assess the impact of the expansion of diplomatic activity between Europe and Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Historians of diplomacy are increasingly adopting cultural approaches to what was once considered a bureaucratic or constitutional subject, but have left the role of literature relatively unexplored. Meanwhile, literary scholars are increasingly aware that diplomatic contacts and processes were important in shaping texts but largely rely on older historical works for context. Our ambition is to develop new methodological and theoretical approaches to the interrelationship between literature and diplomacy that will define and advance this emerging field. We will focus on three closely related areas: the impact of changes in the literary sphere on diplomatic culture; the role of texts in diplomatic practice, particularly those that operated as 'textual ambassadors'; and the impact of changes in diplomatic practice on literary production. 'Textual Ambassadors' will draw together a team of international scholars from the USA, UK, and Europe, including leading figures in the field such as Timothy Hampton (UC Berkley) and John Watkins (University of Minnesota). Our commitment to innovative inter- and multidisciplinary approaches is reflected in the network's composition: members have expertise in diplomatic history, literary criticism, book history, and cultural studies. Our activities will centre on two workshops and an international conference aimed at a) establishing the challenges of the field; b) further developing and refining our core research questions; c) exploring a range of interdisciplinary approaches; and d) setting the network's research in broader context. Virtual discussion forums and reading groups will provide continuous dialogue and reflection among network members, while an open-access website will showcase the network's research by hosting podcasts, blogs, and web exhibits of 'textual ambassadors'.

Planned Impact

The spoken and written word remains crucial to contemporary cultural diplomatic practice. The BBC World Service, for example, has recently been described as one of Britain's key means of cultural diplomacy, while exported books and films powerfully project a nation's image abroad. British Council libraries abroad and USIA-run American libraries abroad were central to the twentieth-century development of public diplomacy, evolving alongside such schemes as the renowned US Art in Embassies Program. Yet current discussions of cultural diplomacy often revolve around exhibitions and artists, or concerts and musicians, and so too rarely address verbal, textual and literary arts. We must understand the place of the spoken and written word within cultural diplomatic practices that continue to complement formal diplomacy, both at the heart of the embassy and widely outside the official diplomatic sphere.

In the early modern period literature, art, and other cultural artefacts were embedded in everyday diplomatic practice. Cultural exchanges played an increasingly important role in the development of diplomatic protocol as countries gradually adopted the practice of keeping resident embassies abroad. While such cultural diplomatic contact was consolidated in relations between western European sovereigns, their diplomatic sphere became increasingly global across the period 1450-1720, incorporating exchange between countries with ostensibly different cultural expressions and conceptions. The verbal and textual nature of core diplomatic practice makes the wider cultural pursuit of diplomatic ends through such 'textual ambassadors' as presentation poems, exported books, or court drama a particularly telling site for investigating these exchanges. By elucidating the mechanisms and consequences of cultural practices within diplomacy during this crucial time in the development of international relations, this network will produce research with resounding implications for the understanding of cultural diplomacy today.

Our research will therefore be of interest to practitioners, policy makers, and researchers interested in the mechanisms of cultural diplomacy, especially those concerned with the role of literature and language in intra-cultural relations. The network's research will address concerns that remain imperative for contemporary cultural diplomacy: the role of language and diplomatic interaction in cultural exchanges; the circumstances and consequences of miscommunication; the role of literary texts as ambassadors; and how different cultures can create a shared political register in order to communicate profitably their values, ideals, and priorities. Equally importantly, our research will consider the impact of diplomatic interaction on the creation of cultural artefacts and the development of cultural values.

'Textual ambassadors' will benefit the broader public by encouraging public awareness of the historical practices, processes and significance of cultural diplomacy. Moreover, our research will enhance our understanding of our cultural heritage and its position in relation to Europe and the wider world whilst simultaneously illuminating facets of the cultural heritage of other countries in Europe and beyond. Our web pages, and associated public talks, will explore such themes and will concurrently give a sense of the material past.

The network could have further indirect impact since our research into the international transmission of texts will potentially provide museums and libraries with new information about items within their collections. Equally, the new critical approaches and new contextual information our research will uncover will be of considerable interest both to scholars preparing future editions of key early modern texts and their prospective readers. Finally, by putting UK scholars at the heart of an emerging and important field of research, the network will enhance overall UK research capacity.

Publications

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Craigwood J (2014) Diplomatic Metonymy and Antithesis in 3 Henry VI in The Review of English Studies

 
Description Textual Ambassadors sheds new light on the symbiotic nature of literary and diplomatic culture in the global Renaissance. 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. Consequently, this project has explored three closely related areas: the impact of changes in the literary sphere on diplomatic culture; the role of texts in diplomatic practice, particularly those that operated as 'textual ambassadors'; and the impact of changes in diplomatic practice on literary production. It has highlighted the international influences on a wide range of early modern literary texts, the roles of diplomatic channels and personnel in the circulation of texts, and how diplomatic events might even shape literary genres. Literary cultures crossed national boundaries and literary-diplomatic networks transcended modern national paradigms. Concurrently, literature was a means by which practising and aspiring diplomats might work through their ideas about key diplomatic principles.
Textual Ambassadors has demonstrated the ways in which literary concerns shaped the form and dissemination of diplomatic knowledge. Diplomatic translators had considerable agency as textual intermediaries, while a shared literary language might present opportunities for coded discussion of negotiations through poetry and other seeming 'paradiplomatic' texts. Those who produced copies of relazione (diplomatic reports) for a broader audience (e.g. for the newsheets), meanwhile, mediated the political events these described through their own religious and literary experiences. Only by appreciating such interventions and by thinking, as this project has, about how the genre of our sources shaped their contents, can we truly appreciate the ways in which polities interacted in this period. For historians, then, the project has offered ways of reconsidering standard sources in new, more sophisticated ways that have the potential to transform our understanding of diplomatic relationships, particularly the cross-cultural exchanges that were fundamental to early modern diplomacy.
By rethinking the relationship between literature and diplomacy, we have also complicated the established narrative of moments of diplomatic change, questioned notions of the nascent public sphere, and shown how texts could create ambiguity within diplomacy that could be used to facilitate friendly relations despite possible difference(s) that could have proved more damaging. Moreover, this project encourages us to think outside a Eurocentric approach to early modern diplomatic studies, for the 'textual ambassadors' we have studied were critical in communicating and mediating cultural difference both within Europe and between Europe and the wider world.
Ultimately, the project has developed innovative interdisciplinary approaches to pre-modern diplomatic studies and literature.
Exploitation Route This project will influence the research and teaching of scholars working on literature, cultural studies, translation studies and the history of diplomacy. Literary scholars and book historians will be encouraged to rethink a variety of texts, including canonical early modern plays and poetry from new, transnational angles. Those interested in translation studies will be encouraged to reconsider translation practices and what constitutes 'translation'. These scholars might further explore how our understanding of early modern literature and the circulation of literary texts and forms might change by thinking beyond national boundaries or by considering archival practices. Historians of diplomacy, meanwhile, will build upon the project's consideration of cross-cultural exchanges and its interdisciplinary approach to diplomatic sources. In particular, our exploration of literary/diplomatic networks is likely to influence future explorations of diplomatic personnel and the boundaries of diplomatic agency, while future studies of pre-modern diplomacy will be able to draw upon and develop the innovative methodological approaches to diplomatic documents that the project has generated.
Sectors Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy

URL http://www.textualambassadors.org
 
Description The findings of the project have been fed into discussions with practitioners about the cultural practices and principles underpinning diplomacy as well as exchanges with diplomats undertaking postgraduate training in the field. There, our findings have informed discussions about ways in which the 'soft power' of cultural diplomacy has been and is used in diplomatic practice and reflections on how to understand seeming similarities and dissonances between different diplomatic cultures. The project's research has also reached the public through the project website which contains various documents and a web gallery of relatively short, accessible articles exploring the role of different types of texts in diplomatic practice and the influence of diplomacy on the composition of texts. One of the benefits of the website is that it promotes a better public understanding of the international influences on early modern literature and the role of language, rhetoric and literary tropes in creating shared understandings of diplomatic practices and negotiations. The website has attracted a large number of views: between 22 March and 22 September 2015 it received 126,318 hits, representing 16,179 sessions from 3642 distinct individuals. The data suggests that the project is generating interest in the USA as well as Europe and is reaching non-academic audiences.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Education,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Conference Grant
Amount £350 (GBP)
Organisation Society for Renaissance Studies 
Sector Learned Society
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2014 
End 09/2014
 
Description TORCH network award
Amount £500 (GBP)
Organisation University of Oxford 
Department The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities TORCH
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2013 
End 08/2014
 
Description Membership of the 'Translating Cultures: Languages of Diplomacy between the Early Modern and Modern Worlds' network 
Organisation Durham University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I have participated in two workshops at which I delivered papers. One, held at Durham in January 2014 focussed on material culture and space in diplomatic practice; the second, held at the Foreign Office in April 2014 focussed on modes of textual communication and diplomatic cultures.
Collaborator Contribution Dr Toby Osborne, the PI on the network delivered a paper at a conference I hosted in Oxford in August 2014 and participated in a roundtable discussion on the state of the field.
Impact So far this collaboration has not produced a specific output, although summaries of my papers are available on the Translating Cultures website. Discussion over possible outputs is in progress. The workshop at the Foreign Office involved extensive discussion with practitioners and policy makers.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Participation in the Diplomatic Cultures Network 
Organisation University College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I attended workshop two of the Diplomatic Cultures network on 'Spaces of Diplomacy', held at UCL in London in June 2013. I presented a paper and participated in discussion with other delegates, including representatives from the FCO's History team and serving diplomats. My Co-Investigator, Joanna Craigwood, attended workshop one on 'Translating Diplomatic Culture', held at Cambridge in February 2013 and similarly contributed. .
Collaborator Contribution Fiona McConnell, the Co-I on the project participated in a roundtable discussion at a conference I hosted in Oxford in August 2014.
Impact The nature of the collaboration is inter- and multi-disciplinary. I bring a historical perspective and Dr Craigwood brings a literary one to a multi-disciplinary project run by two geographers that also involves practitioners, IR theorists and political scientists. Podcast of my workshop paper: http://backdoorbroadcasting.net/2013/06/spaces-of-diplomacy/ Podcast of Dr Craigwood's paper: http://backdoorbroadcasting.net/2013/02/translating-diplomatic-culture/ At the end of each workshop participants were asked, by the FCO representative, to discuss specific policy issues and offer recommendations.
Start Year 2013
 
Description Curriculum enhancement (Diplomatic students) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The students (all diplomats in training) engaged in discussion about contemporary practice across the diplomatic services for which they worked and how this related to the historical case study I had presented. They also shared ideas about differences in diplomatic practice and how to navigate them.

After my talk, the students all said it had helped to open new perspectives on the diplomatic practices they had encountered professionally.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Participation in Round Table discussion 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact further discussion of the relationship between history and policy (the subject of the roundtable discussion)

As this was a roundtable discussion involving dozens of participants, there was no notable impact solely from my participation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Public talk (Cambridge) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Talk sparked questions and discussion

Dr Craigwood was approached for more details of the project and our website
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description workshop paper and participation (Cambridge) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talk sparked discussion between practitioners, professionals and academics

In discussion with other academics Dr Craigwood offered policy suggestions to the FCO representative
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description workshop paper and participation (London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact My talk generated discussion across practitioners and academics

At the end of the workshop I, after discussion with other academics and practitioners, was asked to provide (and did) policy suggestions to an FCO representative
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description workshop paper and participation (London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The talk generated discussion between practitioners and academics.

Practitioners (including those educating diplomats) indicated that their views on practice had been impacted by the talk
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014