Diplomatic history

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Contemporary understanding of the diplomatic history of international relations is widely traced back to the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 where the modern states system as we see it today was developed. The Westphalia settlement marked the start of a novel premises in international affairs: armed struggle was no longer defined as a contest between varieties of confessional truths, but rather, a dispute among secular "sovereigns." The final settlement of armed disputes, after Westphalia, was no longer the province of military contractors and theologians. Instead, the termination of war fell within the purview of an identifiable coterie of a new class: professional diplomats and warriors sworn to the service of a state.

Before the Westphalia settlement, there was no recognizable diplomatic profession. Spies, irregular envoys, and heralds citing scripture or handing out ringing declamations were the usual route that princes chose to alert one another to each other's demands and to sound the start of war. After Westphalia, the diplomatic craft was practiced by a kind of well-born guild, with members who were adept at melding reason, precedent, and law with quiet allusion to the implication of armed compunction.

Before Westphalia, soldiers were led by contractors, private entrepreneurs who garnered pay from their won estates or from the lands they plundered. After Westphalia, soldiers were led by military bureaucrats who raised armies year-round and paid for their keep through levies and taxes. After Westphalia, diplomats and warriors began to share a kind of regulatory synergy. Both diplomat and warrior sought less "victory," and more, the achievement of a favorable peace. War, after Westphalia, as the great observer Clausewitz put it, came to be a "stronger form of diplomacy," and the battlefield an extension of the conference chamber. 41

It was not until 1919 that the first university department devoted to 'international politics' was founded by David Davies at the University of Aberystwyth in Wales. The first university to found an international relations department was the London School of Economics in 1924.

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Further reading

  • Hogan, Michael J. and Thomas G. Paterson, eds. ‘’Explaining the History of American Foreign Relations,’’ (2004), articles originally appeared in ‘’Diplomatic History’’ and cover all main fields of American diplomatic history
  • Zeiler, Thomas W. “The Diplomatic History Bandwagon: A State of the Field,” ‘’Journal of American History’’ (March 2009), v 95#4 pp 1053-73, online at History Cooperative
  • Zeiler, Thomas W. ed. ‘’American Foreign Relations since 1600: A Guide to the Literature’’ (2007), online