Translators in the League

Posted by Kenneth Weisbrode in New Diplomatic History Announcements · Comments ( 0 )

from Haakon Ikonomou:

The latest blogpost of the “The Invention of International Bureaucracy” project concerns the Translation and Interpretation Service of the League Secretariat, and how they contributed, quite literally, to the common understanding of those showing up in Geneva. Interestingly, they hold a prominent place in the early memoirs and academic works of former League staff, as the truest internationalists of the Secretariat.

http://projects.au.dk/inventingbureaucracy/blog/show/artikel/an-international-language-the-translation-and-interpretation-service/

Gender and the League of Nations

Posted by Kenneth Weisbrode in Uncategorized · Comments ( 0 )

From Haakon Ikonomou:

Myriam Piguet (MA student, Aarhus University) has written a great piece on gender
distribution in the League of Nations, and the differences between ambitions and
reality in the early years of the Secretariat.

You will find the latest ‘The Invention of International Bureaucracy’-blog here:

http://projects.au.dk/inventingbureaucracy/blog/show/artikel/gender-distribution-in-the-league-of-nations-the-start-of-a-revolution/

What Diplomats Can Learn from Urbanists, and Vice Versa

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From Ian Klaus:

No matter where you sat — in a negotiating chair, as a representative of civil society, as a member of the media — the process that led up to the recent Habitat III conference on sustainable cities presented a trilemma.

The summit took place in Quito, Ecuador, in October, preceded by four months of formal political negotiations at the United Nations. However, to understand fully those talks, their subject matter and the potential impact of their outcome document, the New Urban Agenda, diplomats and participants needed at least three forms of well-developed knowledge.

First, given the issues in play, diplomats — of which I was one — and participants needed an understanding of urban dynamics. Second, given the setting, they also needed an understanding of United Nations politics, precedent and negotiating practices. And third, the well-informed negotiator or observer required a sense of contemporary geopolitical issues, from climate change to migration.

How many experts in modality negotiations, multi-modal transportation and multipolar geopolitics do you know? To find the practitioner-cum-academic who possessed two of these was difficult; three, a significant challenge. These are global, national and local geographic spaces that do not spend lots of time in practical dialogue with each other.

This intellectual and practical challenge does not mean, however, that multilateral institutions can simply ignore the challenges and opportunities presented by urbanization — that the global can simply ignore the local, or vice versa. As such, and with an eye to future multilateral negotiations in New York, Nairobi and elsewhere, it is worthwhile to reflect on the solutions that were found to this challenge in the Habitat III context, and to consider future work that will be needed.

Diplomats are not urbanists, so as the Habitat III process kicked off last year, there was catching up to be done. (Quickly — check out Edward Glaeser and Saskia Sassen from the library; email Genie Birch; and add Citiscope, NextCity and CityLab to your Internet bookmarks!) But given that there were so many issues that fell under the Habitat III umbrella — urban land, urban-rural linkages, the informal sector, urban culture and heritage, and so on — and that the negotiating teams were for the most part small, it became more realistic for negotiators to work at accessing expertise than to develop it themselves.

Accessing expertise

A series of approaches — some institutional, some informal, some hybrid — furthered this access. In advance of the negotiations, which got underway in May 2016, the conference managers released 10 technical “policy unit” papers and 22 “issue papers” focused on critical urban issues and written by international experts.

The admirable ambition was to provide diplomats and the wider international community with accessible expertise. And some of the better papers, such as Policy Unit Paper 4 on “Urban Governance, Capacity and Institutional Development” and Issue Paper 11 on “Public Space”, did just that.

The papers most helpful to negotiators linked the urban issue at hand — for example, public space — with questions of national and global governance. And they did so in a concise fashion, with the most useful papers more closely resembling traditional foreign-policy briefing papers than urban academic tracts.

Even with the policy and issue papers and supporting events at organizations such as the Ford Foundation, however, there were simply too many issues for a single diplomat or small negotiating team to absorb. (Citiscope receives support from the Ford Foundation.) As such, negotiators had to rely on and in certain instances trust experts or advocates.

In certain instances, the wider room of negotiators relied on the topical expertise that particular member states or negotiating party possessed. For instance, the European Union’s deep experience with regional urban development and South Korea’s keen interest in smart cities ensured that their interventions on those issues were well-received.

Another source of expertise was found in the civil society experts in the negotiating room. While the role and presence of civil society is a hotly contested political issue at the United Nations, the expertise added by the perspectives of practitioners, grass-roots advocates, academics and many others undoubtedly helped overcome knowledge gaps.

This channel of knowledge-sharing required a number of commitments. The United States and other like-minded member states had to negotiate for civil society to be included as observers in the negotiations’ modalities. They also had to stand up for that presence when challenged in the negotiating room, which happened on several occasions.

Meanwhile, civil-society representatives required the support of their respective organizations to spend the long hours in New York and elsewhere required to track developments in the negotiations.

And finally, negotiators and civil-society experts needed to develop relationships through which ideas and feedback could be shared. These relationships often were built on repeated informal interactions. The U. S. negotiating team, for instance, benefited from repeated exchanges with the International Committee of the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity and other organizations.

In the absence of a new generation of diplomats with backgrounds in urban planning, some of these practices should be considered in the future. Policy and issue papers are helpful, for instance, but linking the substantive issue with foreign-policy concerns and practices dramatically improves the effectiveness of such documents.

And with an eye toward solving knowledge gaps, member states must recognize that civil-society participation is not only a question of the politics of “who’s at the table” but also one of accessing expertise to produce better results.

Negotiating lessons

But educating and informing diplomats on urban issues, of course, is only one side of the coin.

Urbanists are not multilateral diplomats. While the subject of the New Urban Agenda was urbanization, many of the forces that shaped it were diplomatic. Just as diplomats need to bolster their urbanist chops, urbanists would do well to develop a better understanding of the multilateral landscape.

With that goal in mind, I’ve attempted to provide answers to three questions we received from many at the Habitat III conference, with the hopes of developing a more rounded set of lessons to be carried forward.

First, why did we spend so much time arguing about previous U. N. negotiations? The answer here is simple if discomfiting: Every new international agenda, agreement or accord affords the opportunity to reinterpret, if not renegotiate, those that preceded it.

In the 18 months leading up to Quito, the international community for the first time set out to develop a universal framework for development, an approach that raised the stakes for the Quito negotiations. This new framework included the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the third International Conference on Financing for Development, finalized in July 2015, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted two months later.

U. N. negotiations place great importance on precedent. But a shared recognition of the importance of precedent does not guarantee a shared interpretation of its appropriate use. To the contrary, it can encourage liberal interpretations, misrepresentations and cherry-picking.

In Paragraph 6 of the New Urban Agenda, the member states agreed that the previous outcomes mattered. But the fraught negotiations over numerous subsequent paragraphs, including many of which are no longer in the document, showed disagreement over the spirit and authority of those documents.

As negotiators from the U. S. Department of State, for example, we had to ensure that references to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda were consistent with the spirit of that document as understood by the U. S. Treasury Department, which participated in its adoption. In other words, negotiators are never going to be free to focus only on the issue at hand — rather, to effectively operate in the present, they also must keep an eye on the minutia and context of their negotiated pasts.

Geopolitics vs. urban concerns

Second, why does the New Urban Agenda mention “as appropriate” so often? In a 24-page document, the phrase appears 17 times.

Perhaps more than any other U. N. outcome document, the New Urban Agenda makes clear the importance of local governments and actors. In this regard, Paragraph 87 of the New Urban Agenda is particularly noteworthy: “We will foster stronger coordination and cooperation among national, subnational and local governments, including through multilevel consultation mechanisms and by clearly defining the respective competences, tools and resources for each level of government.”

This was an accomplishment. But such language that helps establish a precedent for the importance of local governments and authorities came with a cost: “as appropriate”. In the end, Habitat III was not a communal constitutional convention. Member states did not enter into the negotiations with the authority or goal to reconsider their respective political or legal orders. In an age of populism and nationalism, the question of national prerogative will continue to be a challenge for related U. N. negotiations going forward.

Third, what’s with the obsession over “red lines”? These are policy issues that if left unresolved can prompt a member state, or perhaps many, to break consensus on an agreement or outcome document. Any misrepresentations of the Paris Agreement on climate change, for example, were red lines for a number of member states, and could have potentially prompted the United States to break consensus.

Yet such issues are rarely the concern of mayors, so what why did these take up so much time in an urban-focused debate? It is true that very few of the red lines identified by member-state negotiators pertained to traditionally urban issues. Instead, they were often matters of geopolitics and the business of international relations, including sanctions and internationally recognized rights. At its worst, this could be interpreted to mean that negotiators prioritized geopolitical issues over urban ones — but that would be to draw, as many urbanists now recognize, a false dichotomy between the local and the global.

The issue of migrants in the New Urban Agenda provides a useful example. The Syrian refugee crisis has brought a regional and geopolitical issue to bear on the social fabric and budgets of cities. As such, the question of guaranteed access to services for migrants “regardless of their migration status” was not simply an abstract question of rights but also a pressing, crisis-driven issue that proved fraught because of the convergence of the global and the local.

Moving forward, “red line” issues increasingly will be issues playing out in cities around the world. Urbanists and civil-society advocates could strengthen their voices in multilateral settings if they understand the geopolitical dimensions of the challenges they face in their cities every day.

Learn your modalities

Diplomacy and urbanism are sexy — in concept. In practice, they are crafts of discipline, duration, detail and charisma.

In Quito, I saw a number of riveting presentations on subjects ranging from urban compaction in London and Berlin to the networking of South African cities. Among the most important offered by U. S. officials, in my opinion, was a presentation to civil-society members from U. S. State Department experts on modality negotiations — hardly riveting stuff, to be sure, and less conducive to flashy slides, but important all the same in building bridges and ensuring the presence of experts and advocates.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m more excited to learn about multi-modal than about modalities, about ride-sharing than red lines. But if local issues are to have their hearing at the United Nations, we all have to develop a familiarity with both discourses, and ensure the ongoing connection of experts and practitioners from both disciplines.

Roosevelt Conference

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From Giles Scott-Smith:

PURSUING THE ROOSEVELTIAN CENTURY: INVESTIGATING A HISTORICAL FRAME
Roosevelt Institute for American Studies
Middelburg, The Netherlands
30 November – 1 December 2017

SPECIAL GUESTS:
Frank Costigliola (University of Connecticut)
Michael Cullinane (Northumbria University)
Mario Del Pero (SciencesPo)
Sylvia Ellis (University of Roehampton)
Petra Goedde (Temple University)
Justin Hart (Texas Tech University)
Lisa McGirr (Harvard University)
Kiran Patel (University of Maastricht)

CALL FOR PAPERS
Theodore, Eleanor, and Franklin Roosevelt are three of the most inspiring and dynamic political leaders in 20th century US history. Theodore and Franklin both redefined the presidency and political leadership, each in their unique way. Eleanor, the first modern First Lady, as a widow became a prominent media personality and advocate of political causes such as human rights and the anti-nuclear movement. Each of the three Roosevelts had a specific impact, influence, and legacy, shaping the foreign and domestic policy of the United States, and the relations between the US and the world, through the twentieth century and beyond.

The Rooseveltian Century is a new concept for contemporary history. The nearest equivalent is the idea of the Wilsonian Century, based on the worldview of President Woodrow Wilson and how he conceived of US power being used to shape world politics through WWI (‘making the world safe for democracy’). In contrast, the Rooseveltian Century examines the three Roosevelts as a ‘collective agent’ who, through both domestic and foreign policies, changed our understanding of the responsibilities of government and the global role of the United States. This mean that the Rooseveltian Century, as a historical frame, makes use of the three Roosevelts to view, critically consider and explore key themes in US history and international relations, without necessarily stating that the three acted in unison or that they expressed the same views or policies.

This conference builds on the experimental MOOC, ‘The Rooseveltian Century’, produced by Giles Scott-Smith and Dario Fazzi in 2016. The event, the first to be held at the newly-founded Roosevelt Institute for American Studies, has two main purposes. Firstly, it will uniquely combine research on each of the three principal Roosevelts within an overarching historical investigation into their influence and legacies. Secondly, it will frame the debate around the central themes, motifs and images that can be represented by the term Rooseveltian Century, identifying the longer-lasting meaning and importance of this frame in current-day (international) politics.

PROPOSALS
Paper proposals on the following topics are welcome:
1) Domestic and International Public Policy – which fields were initiated, shaped, or heavily influenced by the Roosevelts;
2) ‘Rooseveltian Transfer’ – how public policy initiatives were taken up by and shared between the Roosevelts and their supporters;
3) Who Influences Who – the roots of Rooseveltian idealism and realism;
4) Public Memory – how the Roosevelts both shaped their own public legacies and have been used by advocates (and adversaries) to represent distinct identities and causes in the public realm;
5) Partisan Politics – how the Roosevelts influenced socio-political and party-based activism;
6) Style and Media – how the Roosevelts responded to and used a changing media environment for their personal and political purposes;
7) Institutions and Alliances – how did the Roosevelts transform US foreign relations and the US role in the world;
8) Principles and Values – how did the Roosevelts broaden conceptions and understanding of such ideals as democracy, freedom, and equality?

DEADLINES
Please send a 250-word proposal, together with a CV, to rooseveltiancentury@gmail.com.
The deadline for paper proposals is 31 March 2017.
Draft papers of 5000 words will be required no later than 1 November 2017, in time for circulation to all participants prior to the conference.
For all enquiries please contact Giles Scott-Smith at g.scott-smith@hum.leidenuniv.nl

CFP: Legal History and Diplomacy

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from Steffen Rimner:

CALL FOR PAPERS Training, Ideas and Practices. The Law of Nations in the Long Eighteenth Century (Paris, 18-19 May 2017); DEADLINE 20 FEBRUARY 2017

The purpose of this conference is to explore the roots of international law and the various concepts related to the “law of nations” by looking at the legal language of diplomats and foreign offices in Europe during the long eighteenth century. The conference also aims to render the variety and complexity of specific mechanisms through which the law of nations was applied for diplomatic use, to explore social and cultural aspects, and to investigate the practical questions that diplomats frequently faced (N. Drocourt & E. Schnakenbourg (eds.), Thémis en diplomatie, PURennes, 2016).

The relationship between diplomacy and the law of nations is at best ambiguous. On the one hand, the law of nations seems to be a hybrid product of philosophical concepts and a digest of diplomatic practice. Lawyers have difficulty resisting the temptation to write a purely academic or genealogical history of the law of nations. The frequent invocation of authors such as Vattel as an authority seems to support this (P. Haggenmacher & V. Chetail (eds.), Vattel’s International Law from a XXIst Century Perspective, Brill, 2011). On the other hand, interaction in negotiations involves a lot more than invoked legal principles. A thorough analysis of diplomatic practice often reveals implicit rules within diplomacy as a social field (P. Bourdieu, Sur l’Etat, Seuil, 2012). Legal arguments are a part of this microcosm, but geopolitical determinants and state interests can bend and bow the use of legal language.

One of the main issues of this conference will be whether law of nations theories influenced diplomatic practice and at the same time whether diplomatic practice altered traditional law of nations concepts. Through fruitful dialogue between young legal historians, historians of political thought and historians of politics from France, Germany and other parts of Europe, we would like to explore and investigate three different scenarios in which law of nations theories emerged both in the practice and the doctrine of diplomacy:

1) Training of diplomats

Was the law of nations the basis of diplomatic education? Did diplomats also receive specific, in-house, foreign affairs training? Was it only theoretical or also based on practice and experience? Was there already a form of professionalisation of diplomats, especially in view of later developments in the 19th century (L. Nuzzo & M. Vec (dir.), Constructing International Law – The Birth of a Discipline, V. Klostermann, 2012)? Finally, to what extent can we envisage a common European diplomatic culture?

2) Circulation of ideas and diplomatic networks

What was the legal and intellectual background of the various traités du droit des gens? To what extent were legal expertise (G. Braun, La connaissance du Saint-Empire en France du baroque aux Lumières (1643-1756), De Gruyter, 2010) or legal rhetorics pragmatic tools used in everyday politics? For whom did thinkers such as Abbé de Saint-Pierre (1658-1743) write their treatises? The sovereign? Legal advisers? Public opinion? If the law of nations formed a kind of a common European diplomatic culture, how did it spread throughout Europe? Can we identify the same use in various diplomatic flows of the time? How were diplomatic networks organised? Can we find examples of specific territories – such as the principalities of Walachia and Moldova, between the Ottoman Empire and the “European” powers – functioning as kinds of “diplomatic hubs”?

3) Transformation

Is the diplomatic habitus of the Vienna Congress a turning point? Where did the transition from the 18th to the 19th century take place, both in theory and in practice? How important was the impact of Enlightenment and French Revolutionary thought (M. Bélissa, Fraternité universelle et intérêt national, 1713-1795, Kimé, 1998)? How far can we find echoes in diplomatic culture and correspondence?

We kindly invite young scholars (up to 6 years after PhD) to present their new research within French-German and European perspectives. All applications must be sent by 20 February 2017 with a short CV (5 to 10 lines) and a proposal of 400 words to diplomacyconference2017@gmail.com. Results will be communicated by 15 March 2017. This conference has received the generous support of the CIERA (Centre interdisciplinaire d’études et de recherches sur l’Allemagne, www.ciera.fr) as a colloque junior and will take place on the 18th (afternoon) and 19th (morning) of May 2017.

Papers can be presented in English, French or German. A peer-reviewed publication of the proceedings is envisaged.

Organising Committee
Raphael Cahen (Orléans/VUB-FWO)
Frederik Dhondt (VUB/Antwerp/Ghent-FWO)
Elisabetta Fiocchi Malaspina

Scientific Committee
Jacques Bouineau (La Rochelle)
Paul De Hert (VUB)
Dirk Heirbaut (Ghent)
Christine Lebeau (Paris I)
Gabriella Silvestrini (Piemonte Orientale)
Matthias Schmoeckel (Bonn)
Antonio Trampus (Venezia)
Miloš Vec (Vienna)

New “Splendid Encounters” Call for Papers

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Splendid Encounters VI: Correspondence and Information Exchange in Diplomacy (1300-1750)

Nova University of Lisbon

28th — 30th September 2017

Splendid Encounters 6 is one of a series of international and interdisciplinary conferences which aim to bring together scholars from the broadest range of perspectives to consider diplomacy and diplomatic activities in the late medieval and early modern period. After successful meetings in Warsaw, Bath, Florence, Budapest and Prague, we wish to invite you to join us for another event, hosted by Nova University of Lisbon.

Collecting and transferring information is a major aim of diplomacy, and one not confined to diplomats strictly speaking. People of different ranks and functions were still connected to diplomatic activity — ambassadors, nuncios, chargés d’affaires, secretaries and agents, members of ambassadorial households, consuls and merchants, and even the aides employed as middlemen or translators.

Just as varied as the agents were the methods used to obtain access to the latest news and information useful to ruler or country. As diplomatic networks grew bigger and bigger in size and reach in this period, so did the need to find reliable sources of news and to develop ways to efficiently deliver them.

These are some of the issues that will be addressed at the upcoming conference, Splendid Encounters VI. The conference will focus on the role of news and information transmitting in diplomatic practices within and outside Europe between the fourteenth and the eighteenth centuries. In assessing the role of diplomats and networks in such exchanges, this edition of Splendid Encounters also breaks away from traditional chronological and geographical approaches.

Please email by 15 March 2017 to se6.lisbon@gmail.com your abstract for either 20‒minute individual papers or 90‒minute sessions (to comprise a panel, roundtable, project presentation, etc.). We especially encourage proposals dealing with:

Diplomatic correspondence: evolution, importance, cyphers, etc.
Diplomats and diplomacy as a subject of news
The languages, forms and performance of (written and oral) communication
East–West/North–South encounters
Channels of contact; Europe, Africa, Asia, America
Diplomatic communication across cultures and the culture(s) of diplomatic communication
Practices of information exchange in empire, states, regions
The personnel of news networks
Continuity and change in the long run: from ‘medieval’ to ‘early modern’

Applicants will be notified of acceptance by 15th April.
Contact Info:

Dr Anna Kalinowska: se6.lisbon@gmail.com

Dr Tiago Viúla de Faria: tiago.faria@fcsh.unl.pt
Contact Email:
se6.lisbon@gmail.com
URL:
http://www.premoderndiplomats.org/splendid-encounters-vi.html

Human Rights Conference, Leiden

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From Steffen Rimner:

‘Calendar Propaganda’ of Human Rights? Historical Perspectives on the United Nations’ Global Observances

Keynote speakers: Professor Thomas G. Weiss (The Graduate Center, CUNY), Professor Marie-Benedicte Dembour (University of Brighton), Dr. Steven L. B. Jensen (The Danish Institute for Human Rights)

Leiden University, The Hague Campus, 14-16 June, 2017

http://www.un.org/en/sections/observances/united-nations-observances/

What does the UN seek to achieve though global observance days, weeks and years and how have these initiatives impacted the role of the organization in forwarding the agenda of human rights? This conference seeks to determine what the UN has sought to accomplish through observances, how do these initiatives bring stakeholders together and are they successful in establishing benchmarks and stimulating global agendas on a range of rights and development issues.

Since 1959, starting with the World Refugee Year, the United Nations have observed international days, weeks, years and decades which have been dedicated to a variety of causes. Among them have been women, disabled people, anti-apartheid, drinking water and more recently the Kyrgyz statehood, the gorilla, microcredit and quinoa. Typically, these events have sought to promote awareness of and encourage (inter)national action on fundamental issues related to human rights, social justice, cultural heritage and environmental problems. In addition to the UN itself, its specialized agencies, such as UNICEF, UNESCO, WHO, ILO and UNHCR were also involved in the activities. Numerous NGOs, churches, multinational corporations and a myriad of international organizations, interest groups, celebrities and activists made a contribution. Moreover, member states were also expected to become engaged, and they often formed national and regional committees for that purpose. Over time these observances have become an integral part of the UN’s institutional identity, a pillar of its advocacy of human rights and an indication of how the organization tries to connect the role of the various stakeholders with public opinion.

Despite their pivotal role in conveying UN’s mission, the dynamics and impact international days, weeks, years and decades have not been subject of a more comprehensive historical study. The conference seeks to embrace the multifarious potentials that a longue durée study of this subject can offer. For one thing, the observances provide a useful new lens through which to (critically) revisit the UN’s major agendas and dilemmas, interactions with various international bodies and member states, its successes and failures, be they for example peacekeeping, combating discrimination or the eradication of poverty. How did these days, weeks, years and decades contribute (or not) to internationalizing and propagating the UN’s agenda? Did the accompanying non-binding resolutions instigate the development of new paradigms/agendas or did they merely create unrealistic expectations?

The study of UN’s observances has the potential to contribute to a variety of fields of historical enquiry, including the history of human rights, the evolution of internationalisms and intellectual history. We encourage submissions from scholars in these areas addressing questions such as:

What has been the impact of alternative political and social rights claims on our contemporary understanding of individual human rights?
What do these agreements on observances reflect about developments and ideological confrontations during the Cold War, the evolution of decolonization, the emergence of new social movements, the financial crisis in the 1970s and the rise of neoliberalism?
How were the different political and ideological international and transnational groupings represented in these activities? Did observances confirm ideological divides or did they succeed in promoting solidarity?
In what ways was the Global South involved and how did the humanitarian and development agendas of the observances shape the ‘politics of vulnerable lives’?
What shifts can be observed in the uses of concepts like dignity, inequality, solidarity and civil society and what kind of ‘politics of time’ was implicated in the ‘year after year, day after day’ patterns? In a more general sense, how were the observances informed by notions of global time, coevalness and development?

Submission of abstracts

Applications are invited from scholars at any stage of their careers representing diverse disciplinary backgrounds and various geographical regions. Please send an abstract of around 500 words and a short CV to the following email address: rethinkingdisability@hum.leidenuniv.nl by 5 February, 2017. Questions to the organizers can be sent using the same address. Authors will be notified regarding the acceptance of their contribution by 28 February. Invited participants will be expected to submit a short draft version of their paper two weeks prior to the event, which will be circulated among all other participants. We aim to publish the revised versions of a selection of these papers in an edited volume.
Other practicalities

Selected participants will be provided with catering, including the conference dinner, but will be expected to cover their travel and accommodation expenses. However, some funds can be made available on a competitive basis to contribute to the travel and accommodation expenses of a certain number of speakers, an opportunity particularly intended for junior scholars and for those without research funds from their own institutions. Please indicate when submitting the abstract if you would like to be considered for subsidy. Submissions from applicants with special needs (e.g. disabled access, childcare) are welcome and the organizers will do their best to accommodate such requests.
Organization

The workshop is initiated and hosted by the research team of the ERC project Rethinking Disability: the Global Impact of the International Year of Disabled Persons (1981) in Historical Perspective, based in the Institute for History at Leiden University.
Contact Info:

Paul van Trigt
Institute for History
Johan Huizinga Building
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Room number 0.12
Contact Email:
p.w.van.trigt@hum.leidenuniv.nl

New Journal about Early Modern Diplomacy

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Legatio: The Journal for Renaissance and Early Modern Diplomatic Studies is a new international online open source journal to be published annually and hosted by the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Tadeusz Manteuffel Institute of History, Warsaw. Its mission is to provide a forum to advance our understanding of the role of diplomats and the function of diplomacy in the Renaissance and early modern world, taking into account the traditional histories of politics, the arts, economics, law, and society, along with emerging histories of gender, exchange, identity, and communication. As such, this journal seeks to present, disseminate, and promote research of the highest quality that provokes debate and challenges assumptions in an area of historical scholarship too long overlooked.

For decades, Renaissance and early modern diplomatic history has languished as a stagnant field of academic research. Aloof to wider currents and trends in scholarship, the study of diplomatic history was in fast decline. In recent decennia, this trend has dramatically reversed and increasing numbers of scholars have answered recent calls for a new approach to diplomatic history. Various routes of historical enquiry are now being explored. Apart from understanding political, social, economic, commercial and cultural aspects of early modern diplomacy, historians are now adopting new methods and ideas. Today’s scholarship broadens the field of inquiry by amalgamating cultural, semiotic, and anthropological approaches, whilst continuing to undertake fresh archival research and revise established beliefs.

The journal invites contributions from suitably qualified scholars in two categories: articles and critical editions of primary sources. The journal will also publish book and exhibition reviews, conference reports, and notices relevant to the field of study. Any article and critical edition will be subject to a double-blind peer review before publication. Authors will be informed about the acceptance or rejection of the text within two months. The journal will be published online, with an e-ISSN, with the first issue expected to be published in 2017.

Guidelines on the submission requirements and editorial style sheet as well as additional information on the journal can be found at: http://legatio-ihpan.edu.pl/index.php/en/

Contact Email:
legatio@ihpan.edu.pl
URL:

http://legatio-ihpan.edu.pl/index.php/en/

Our Second Conference

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From Giles Scott-Smith:

Borders, Networks, and Organisations through the 20th Century
2nd Conference of the New Diplomatic History Network
Centre for Modern European Studies, University of Copenhagen
24-26 November 2016

In November the NDH network took its conference to Copenhagen for the follow-up to the inaugural gathering of the network at Leiden university in 2013. Once again, the three-day event demonstrated how rich and varied the current state of the field really is. Framed around three top-level keynotes, the conference consisted of 14 panels and a roundtable on social media and diplomacy. Speakers came from universities in nineteen different countries, and, encouragingly, the appeal of the network’s theme was confirmed with the attendance of many younger scholars and PhD students.

sam_0413
From left, Noe Cornago, Iver Neumann, and Geoff Pigman.

The keynotes set the tone for the three days, and I will concentrate on them for this report. Iver Neumann (LSE) provided the perfect start on Thursday with a perspective on the evolution of diplomacy. Noting that evolution is often seen as a loaded term of overweighted significance, Neumann argued for applying the notion of ‘tipping points’ (a term used in sociology since 1958 but which has the most application in climatology) and the identification of ‘punctuated equilibria’ (Eldridge & Gould, 1972) to designate moments when behaviour changes in fundamental ways. Placing this on to the development of diplomacy reveals key moments such as the development of complex polities, the arrival of permanent representation (not Renaissance Italy but the official contacts between Eastern and Western churches from 292AD onwards), the emergence of diplomatic systems, and institutionalism (forms of multilateral governance). The lecture generated some good debate, notably on the fact that evolution has not progressed linearly at the same speed but has seen many off-shoots and dead-ends (can we also see this in diplomatic practies?), and over the wider influence of technology as a decisive tipping point. Central to Neumann’s overview is the idea of progressive change, since tipping point in a climatological sense indicates a minor alteration that leads to an irreversible change in the system as a whole. Does diplomacy really evolve in those terms?

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Geoff Pigman giving the keynote.

On the Friday Geoff Pigman’s keynote, entitled ‘Go Big or Go Home’: The Challenge for Trade Diplomacy in Europe and Worldwide, provided a perfect follow-up to the evolutionary opening of Neumann. Taking the starting point to be trade-as-diplomacy, Pigman traced a series of transformations as trade interactions adapted to and in turn altered the international environment in which it was operating. This took us through the industrial revolution (as the moment when the need for trade, due to the excess of goods, exceeded mere trade for diplomacy) and the first trade liberalization treaties (dating back to the Anglo-French Cobden-Chevalier Treaty of 1860). Institutionalisation followed, with the 1902 Brussels Sugar Convention (that opposed the use of export subsidies) as a key marker, leading to the creation of GATT after WWII and the progressive locking-in of gains from free trade over time, and for an expanding community of participating nations. This ceded to the era of judicialisation, exemplified by the WTO’s dispute settlement system and the application of trade laws above the jurisdiction of the nation-state. Yet this era has been relatively short-lived, since the collapse of the WTO’s Doha Round in 2015 has signaled a new shift towards the arranging of trade deals outside of the major sites of post-WWII multilateralism. The Silk Road project led by China is a perfect example, with trade as diplomacy being focused along a specific vector, in so doing reviving the old trade routes of the past. This adds an interesting counter-point to the evolutionary argument, since it points towards diplomatic change as being circular rather than linear (and this also being highlighted through non-Western initiatives).

On the Saturday Noe Cornago of the University of the Basque Country rounded off the event with an intriguing investigation into the ‘diplomatic incident’. These happen everywhere, and while they can represent different levels of seriousness, they all indicate some form of contravening diplomatic practice and protocol. The only title devoted solely to this issue is Bely’s L’Incident diplomatique (2010), which nevertheless begins with the deflationary comment that ‘An incident is by definition not so important.’ Diplomatic incidents can often be seen as trivial, anecdotal, and semi-humourous, but at the same time they may well represent critical events that could have led to war. Their ultimate meaning therefore remains inconclusive, and while they may seem like fleeting moments, they hold a long history as a distinct category. Political Science has developed various models for describing the sequence of events that take place during a crisis, and this approach has fed into Event History Analysis. But this approach only treats diplomatic incidents as international crises, leaving aside the apparently more minor triviata that nevertheless still can be accorded that title.

It is the role of the historian to create a narrative of what happened in ’the past’, and diplomatic incidents can, after some examination, be identified as having collectively shaped the diplomatic system itself. International law recognises diplomatic incidents as moments of transgression of norms and formal rules that have been accumulated over time, such as concerning rank, protocol, reciprocity, immunity, and so on. Cornago then went on to provide a series of examples for when such transgressions occurred, ranging from Ben Franklin refusing to wear ambassadorial uniform when in Paris, to de Gaulle’s ebullient but misjudged ‘Vive le Quebec Libre’ from 1967. Other incidents indicate more serious cleavages in the intricate patterns of diplomatic norms, such as the repeated discrimination against African diplomats and statesmen in the segregated US South during the 1950s and 1960s, and the storming and occupation of embassy sites by mobs, most notably the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and the ensuing holding of hostages. In this way incidents force the diplomatic system to respond ‘in order to ensure its own sustainability. As Bely put it, ‘incidents make transparent the relationship between the diplomat (in closed universe) and the society in which they operate’.

Cornago’s keynote was the perfect closure to the conference, because it was not a closure at all – instead, quite deliberately, it raised essential questions concerning the ways in which diplomatic practice (and diplomatic studies in turn) maintain their ‘shape’ while faced with constant tensions and threats to their established behaviour. This summed up the conference well – diplomatic studies as a field is facing an excess of approaches and perspectives, fuelled by innovative cross-disciplinary studies from the humanities and the social sciences. The New Diplomatic History network represents one of the few sites where these kinds of studies are encouraged to interact and exchange ideas. As a ‘state of the field’ event, Copenhagen therefore gave every reason for optimism. What needs to be considered next – as I mentioned at the opening of the event – is the extent to which the NDH network itself needs to define what it is about. Perhaps the network itself has reached a tipping point and should evolve in new directions. With this important thought in mind, I would like once again to thank my Danish colleagues for making the Copenhagen event possible: Karen Gram-Skjoldager, Dino Knudsen, Haakon Ikonomou, and Marianne Rostgaard.