Diplomacy can be defined as the conduct of relations between sovereign entities such as nation-states, empires, and kingdoms.
Diplomacy can be defined as the conduct of relations between sovereign entities such as nation-states, empires, and kingdoms. Diplomacy takes the form of negotiations between duly appointed agents, known as diplomats. Diplomacy is relevant to an understanding of all aspects of war, since diplomats are closely involved with war origins, the conduct of war, and the conclusion of hostilities. Historical studies of diplomacy have traditionally focused on the study of state papers and documents. In recent years, historians have widened the scope of the study of diplomacy to include all aspects of exchanges between states, including cultural and social contacts.
Diplomats are heavily involved in negotiations that precede the outbreak of wars. No student of World War I, for example, could come to a proper understanding of that war without developing a familiarity with the war’s origins. During wartime, diplomats are actively engaged in attempting to win the active, or passive, support of neutral states. In coalition wars, or wars between alliance systems, diplomats are responsible for maintaining the strength of the coalition through the ups and downs of war. Diplomats discuss peace proposals with the enemy and take the leading role in talks that conclude the war. Postwar peace conferences, such as the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, are likewise the responsibility of diplomats.
Diplomacy in the ancient world consisted of
Diplomacy in the medieval world followed patterns established in the ancient world. One of the most frequently cited examples of medieval diplomacy is the relationship between
Most scholars would trace the origins of the modern system of diplomacy to Renaissance
The court of the influential French minister Cardinal de Richelieu, who was a dominant diplomatic figure during the reign of Louis XIII.
Prominent practitioners of diplomacy included France’s
U.S. president Richard M. Nixon is widely credited with having helped open China to the West during the height of the Cold War.
Restoring the balance of power in Europe was the main aim of the
By the 1860’s, the concept of
Bismarck put Germany at the center of a web of alliances designed to maintain Germany’s predominant position in Europe. In 1884 he presided over the
The era of classical diplomacy, when diplomats came from similar aristocratic backgrounds and shared common assumptions about the conduct of diplomacy, came to an end with the outbreak of World War I in 1914. The war left nine million dead and large areas of Europe devastated. Public opinion increasingly condemned “old diplomacy,” with its secret alliances and treaties, and held diplomats responsible for the outbreak of war. President
Unfortunately, the League of Nations was hobbled from the start by the absence of the United States, which withdrew into isolation after 1919.
The Camp David Accords (1978), signed by Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat (right) and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin (left), were witnessed by U.S. president Jimmy Carter and paved the way for the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty.
The worsening international situation in the late 1930’s, with Nazi Germany under
The numerous crises of the ensuing
Face-to-face meetings between world leaders remain the preferred means of diplomacy in the twenty-first century. International institutions such as the United Nations, the European Union, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) also serve as important venues for diplomacy. Ambassadors and foreign ministries continue to play important roles, if slightly diminished compared to the age of classical diplomacy. The vast increase in the number of independent states since 1945 has ensured that the practitioners of diplomacy today are far more diverse and varied in their backgrounds and worldviews than in the past.
Afflerbach, H., and D. Stevenson, eds. An Improbable War? The Outbreak of World War One and European Political Culture Before 1914. New York: Berghahn Books, 2007. Recent collection of essays examining the defining diplomatic crisis of the twentieth century. Kissinger, Henry. Diplomacy. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994. A survey of diplomacy by the former U.S. secretary of state, one of the most foremost practitioners of twentieth century diplomacy. Lawford, Valentine. Bound for Diplomacy. Boston: Little, Brown, 1963. Memoir of a British diplomat of the 1930’s, witness to the rise of Hitler. Mosslang, Markus, and Torsten Riotte, eds. The Diplomat’s World: A Cultural History of Diplomacy, 1815-1914. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. A collection of essays showcasing the new “cultural” approach to diplomacy. Nicolson, H. Diplomacy. London: Thornton Butterworth, 1939. A study of diplomacy by a British politician and member of the British delegation to the pivotal 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Rich, N. Great Power Diplomacy, 1814-1914. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1992. A classic diplomatic history of a period when European powers dominated the world.
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