Renaissance Diplomacy

Renaissance Diplomacy

Renaissance Diplomacy

Renaissance Diplomacy

Excerpt

Somewhat more than thirty years ago the studies out of which this book has grown were begun at Harvard University under the guidance of Roger Bigelow Merriman. I then intended a history of Anglo-Spanish diplomatic relations in the sixteenth century. An alert reader may be able to detect, in the frequency with which illustrations from the Spanish embassy in England occur in some of the following chapters, a trace of that original plan, but there is really very little of it left.

Work on it was interrupted by other interests, by personal distractions and by those intrusions of current events which have disarranged most people's lives in the recent past. Each time I took up the manuscript again I found that its interest for me had changed, that I was asking different questions and being obliged to range always further afield for answers. Spreading out so far, of course, has increased the danger of error in fact and in interpretation. I can only plead that I could not understand specific diplomatic negotiations without more knowledge of their background than I found ready to hand. In particular, I needed to know more of the growth of diplomatic institutions, of the uses they were designed for and the assumptions people made about them and of the spirit which gave them life.

So I was finally led to write, not the narrative of a particular embassy, but a general account of the development of Western diplomacy in its formative period. It seemed worth doing for two reasons. In the first place, although all civilizations of which we have any record have had some set of diplomatic institutions, ours took a turn some time after 1400 which differentiated it from all other sets in history. This new development seemed to me a characteristic symptom of the new power relations of the nascent modern world, and therefore possibly instructive about the period of history from which we are emerging, and about how people adapt their institutions in an age of change. In the second place, little proved to have been written, even for specialists, about the development of European diplomatic institutions before 1648, and of that little only a small fraction in English.

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