Coming soon: “Writing rebellion in early modern diplomacy”
In a collaborative endeavour, the research group “Revolts as Communicative Events in the Early Modern Period” based in Konstanz, Germany, has assembled scholars from all across Europe (including Russia) and the United States to contribute collectively to ongoing academic debates on early modern diplomacy.
We will participate in the Sixty-First Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America (RSA) in Berlin, 26–28 March 2015, and stage five panels on our most recent research:
Over the past decades, New Diplomatic History (NDH) has provided valuable insight in early modern cultures of diplomacy by focusing on diplomatic practices and the conflicts caused by dissonance in protocol and etiquette. Building on the NDH idea of the diplomat as an agent negotiating between different cultures, we aim to bring the diplomat’s role as news provider and influential interpreter of foreign events to light.
Most importantly, cross-border perceptions voiced through arcane diplomatic channels frequently counterbalanced policies of what we call damnatio memoriae: Although rebellions were essentially public conflicts in which social actors tried to articulate and publicize their claims as pertaining to the common good, governments did everything they could to downplay the events and to refute their universal nature. As long as rebellions were in full swing and rebels could freely advertise their claims, this objective was, of course, unattainable: The more wide-reaching insurgent movements became, the more authorities were forced to engage in counter-propagandistic efforts and to respond directly to the grievances brought forth by oppositions. But once they managed to crush a rebellion and consolidate their power, governments generally tried to extinguish its memory and to cover up their own administrative failures. Official accounts were occupied with representations of punishment and executions, but there was no further mention of the preceding events of resistance.
The tightly knot European network of diplomacy, however, often preserved and spread knowledge of the defeated insurgents’ motives against all odds. Although censorship was strictly enforced until at least the late 17th century, early modern authorities could hardly ever prevent the publication and circulation of foreign accounts. And it is striking how well informed early modern diplomats proved to be. Apart from their own experiences and oral reports, they regularly forwarded intercepted letters and a wide range of printed material (e.g. caricatures, press-clippings and pamphlets) to their masters abroad. In many cases, diplomatic eagerness has saved from complete obliteration oppositional publications, which were eventually banned and destroyed in their country of origin.
Furthermore, reflections of foreign crisis gave attentive diplomats a chance to implicitly consider grievances and rebellion in their home countries. Government failures witnessed abroad could then be turned into advice to their ruling authorities. It was through the interpretation of revolts abroad that potential preventive strategies could be debated and recommended by political authors.
If you want to join us for inspiring talks and discussions, this is the official RSA conference schedule for our five panels:
- Receptions and Representations of Revolts in Early Modern Diplomacy I: Southeastern Europe
Fri, March 27, 8:30 to 10:00am, Hegelplatz, Dorotheenstrasse 24/1, 1.606
- Receptions and Representations of Revolts in Early Modern Diplomacy II: England and the Continent
Fri, March 27, 10:15 to 11:45am, Hegelplatz, Dorotheenstrasse 24/1, 1.606
- Receptions and Representations of Revolts in Early Modern Diplomacy III: Scandinavia and the Continent
Fri, March 27, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Hegelplatz, Dorotheenstrasse 24/1, 1.606
- Receptions and Representations of Revolts in Early Modern Diplomacy IV: Borderlands
Fri, March 27, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Hegelplatz, Dorotheenstrasse 24/1, 1.606
- Receptions and Representations of Revolts in Early Modern Diplomacy V: Shaping the Image
Fri, March 27, 4:45 to 6:15pm, Hegelplatz, Dorotheenstrasse 24/1, 1.606