Diplomacy encompasses the myriad processes of formal and informal communication between and among states. While evidence of protodiplomatic practices exists from the ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman worlds (especially through envoys), the antecedents of modern diplomatic practices can more properly be traced to medieval and early modern Europe. The emerging states of Europe slowly began to institutionalize formal diplomatic customs and conventions in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries, forced as they were to engage with one another for political, geographic, economic, religious, and strategic reasons. Traditionally (and especially since the Renaissance), diplomacy has been conducted by ambassadors and consuls, professional diplomats who function as resident agents of their respective governments in foreign states. Since the early 19th century, the leaders and foreign ministers of the major powers have increasingly opted to conduct direct diplomacy through congresses, conferences, and summits, in addition to dispatching permanent representatives to act on their behalf. There is a vast literature on the history of diplomacy. Much of it is historically oriented, although scholars in international relations and political science have also contributed much to our understanding of diplomacy’s evolving role in the international system. Most of the literature is concerned with delineating and analyzing the major innovations in diplomatic practice from the ancient to the contemporary period. For the most part, the literature is stimulating and coherent. New researchers and novice undergraduates will find it accessible, comprehensible, and easily digestible, and experienced scholars will find much to augment, challenge, and enrich their ongoing research agendas.
General overviews of the history of diplomacy, not surprisingly, tend to be historically oriented, although a number of studies especially recommend themselves to students of international relations. Undergraduates and graduate students, as well as veteran scholars, will find a wealth of ideas, insights, and possible research topics in these surveys. De Souza and France 2008 is an excellent starting point for new students in ancient and medieval diplomacy. Eleven well-written, wide-ranging, and accessible essays provide a solid grounding in the period, while also highlighting the many parallels and divergences between ancient and modern diplomacy. Designed primarily for undergraduates, Anderson 1993 is an excellent chronological and thematic introduction to early modern and modern diplomacy. Hamilton and Langhorne 1995 takes a similar approach, outlining the evolution of modern diplomatic practice from the ancient period to the modern, primarily for an undergraduate audience. Berridge, et al. 2001 adopts a similar chronology, but focuses instead on the major diplomatic theorists from Machiavelli to Kissinger. For an introduction to 19th- and 20th-century diplomacy, Kissinger 1994 is a lucid place to begin, combining a solid grasp of history with the author’s own personal experiences. Keylor 2005 is another excellent overview of 20th-century international relations that expertly introduces the student to every important diplomatic event of the period. Those seeking a more theoretical approach to the subject will find Lauren 1979 and Barston 2006 easily accessible, expansive, and stimulating introductory readers.
Anderson, Matthew S. The Rise of Modern Diplomacy, 1450–1919. New York: Longman, 1993.
Broad and well-written collection of thematic and chronological chapters on history of early modern and modern diplomacy. Aimed at undergraduates. Topics range from ancien régime diplomacy to aspirations of international peace to balance of power diplomacy. Very helpful survey for beginning researchers; useful insights for veteran researchers. Valuable bibliographical essay.
Barston, Ronald P. Modern Diplomacy. 3d ed. New York: Longman, 2006.
Essential theoretical introduction to development of diplomatic practice and diplomatic institutions. Informative and cogent chapters on negotiation, diplomacy and finance, commerce and diplomacy, mediation, treaties, and terrorism. Useful case studies. Especially noteworthy for occasional inclusion of pertinent diplomatic correspondence. Particularly suitable for undergraduates and beginning graduate students.
Berridge, G. R., Maurice Keens-Soper, and T. G. Otte. Diplomatic Theory from Machiavelli to Kissinger. New York: Palgrave, 2001.
Nine very useful essays on key diplomatic theorists from the Renaissance to the modern era. Includes lucid and thoughtful essays on Machiavelli, Grotius, Richelieu, Satow, Nicolson, and Kissinger. Historians and international-relations scholars of all periods and experience will find much to appreciate here.
De Souza, Philip, and John France, eds. War and Peace in Ancient and Medieval History. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Engaging introduction to diplomacy in the ancient and medieval periods. Collection of eleven lucid essays covering Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine, and Anglo-Saxon diplomacy. Focus on treaties, peacemaking, and war. Also useful for historians of modern diplomacy. Suitable for undergraduates, with new insights for graduate students and experienced researchers.
Hamilton, Keith, and Richard Langhorne. The Practice of Diplomacy: Its Evolution, Theory and Administration. New York: Routledge, 1995.
Short, solid introduction to development of diplomatic practice. Especially suitable for international-relations undergraduates and survey courses. Overly brief treatment of ancient, medieval, and Renaissance diplomacy. Non-European examples also require more attention. Stronger on 19th- and 20th-century European diplomacy.
Keylor, William R. The Twentieth Century World and Beyond: An International History Since 1900. 5th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.
Excellent, reliable, and comprehensive overview of 20th-century international relations. Unusually lucid and cogent introductory text that covers every important diplomatic event of the period. Undergraduates and graduate students in particular will find it stimulating and coherent, and will benefit from its broad and wide-ranging approach.
Kissinger, Henry. Diplomacy. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994.
Classic study of modern diplomacy, with particular emphasis on the 20th century. Especially interesting, albeit often opinionated, insights from the author’s own experience. Focuses almost exclusively on geopolitics. Eminently readable, characteristically provocative and authoritative. Important starting point for both international-relations scholars and historians of all levels.
Lauren, Paul Gordon, ed. Diplomacy: New Approaches in History, Theory, and Policy. New York: Free Press, 1979.
Slightly dated but nevertheless important attempt to bridge historical and theoretical studies of diplomacy. Concerned partly with improving interdisciplinary communication and partly with the uses of history in policy making. Essays consider quantitative approaches, crisis decision making, bureaucratic politics, coercive diplomacy, and alliances.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions and individuals. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article
Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.
If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email email@example.com to express your interest.
- Academic Theories of International Relations Since 1945
- Arab-Israeli Wars, 1967-1973, The
- Arab-Israeli Wars, The
- Arms Control
- Arms Races
- Asylum Policies
- Authoritarian Regimes
- Balance of Power Theory
- Bargaining Theory of War
- Challenge of Communism, The
- China and Japan
- China's Defense Policy
- China's Foreign Policy
- Civil Resistance
- Civil Society in the European Union
- Cold War, The
- Conflict Behavior and the Prevention of War
- Conflict Management
- Countermeasures in International Law
- Criminal Law, International
- Critical Theory of International Relations
- Cuban Missile Crisis, The
- Cyber Warfare
- Demobilization, Post World War I
- Democracies and World Order
- Democracy and Conflict
- Democracy in World Politics
- Deterrence Theory
- Diplomacy, History of
- Diplomacy, Public
- Disaster Diplomacy
- Eastern Front (World War I)
- Economics, International
- Embedded Liberalism
- Emerging Powers and BRICS
- Empirical Testing of Formal Models
- Epidemic Diseases and their Effects on History
- Ethics and Morality in International Relations
- Ethnicity in International Relations
- European Migration Policy
- European Security and Defense Policy, The
- European Union as an International Actor
- European Union, International Relations of the
- Fascism, The Challenge of
- Food Security
- Forecasting in International Relations
- Foreign Policy, Theories of
- French Empire, 20th-Century
- From Club to Network Diplomacy
- Game Theory and Interstate Conflict
- Genocide, Politicide, and Mass Atrocities Against Civilian...
- Genocides, 20th Century
- Geopolitics and Geostrategy
- Germany in World War II
- Global Civil Society
- Global Constitutionalism
- Global Environmental Politics
- Global Ethic of Care
- Global Governance
- Global Justice, Western Perspectives
- Greater Middle East, The
- Hague Conferences (1899, 1907)
- Human Rights
- Human Rights and Humanitarian Diplomacy
- Human Rights Law
- Intelligence Oversight
- Internal Displacement
- International Conflict Settlements, The Durability of
- International Criminal Court, The
- International Economic Organizations (IMF and World Bank)
- International Health Governance
- International Justice, Theories of
- International Law
- International Monetary Relations, History of
- International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
- International Nongovernmental Organizations
- International Organizations
- International Relations as a Social Science
- International Relations Theory
- International Security
- International Society
- International Society, Theorizing
- International Support For Nonstate Armed Groups
- Internet Law
- Interstate Cooperation Theory and International Institutio...
- Intervention and Use of Force
- Iran, Politics and Foreign Policy
- Just War Theory
- Kurdistan and Kurdish Politics
- Law of the Sea
- Laws of War
- Leadership in International Affairs
- League of Nations
- Lean Forward and Pull Back Options for US Grand Strategy
- Military Science
- Minority Rights
- Multilateralism (1992–), Return to
- National Liberation, International Law and Wars of
- National Security Act of 1947, The
- Nations and Nationalism
- NATO, Europe, and Russia: Security Issues and the Border R...
- New Multilateralism in the Early 21st Century
- Nonproliferation and Counterproliferation
- Peace of Utrecht
- Peacebuilding, Post-Conflict
- Political Demography
- Political Economy of National Security
- Political Learning and Socialization
- Political Psychology
- Popular Culture and International Relations
- Post-Civil War State
- Post-Conflict and Transitional Justice
- Power Transition Theory
- Preventive War and Preemption
- Prisoners, Treatment of
- Prospect Theory in International Relations
- Public Opinion and the European Union
- Religion and International Relations
- Religiously Motivated Violence
- Responsibility to Protect
- Russian Revolutions and Civil War, 1917-1921
- Sanctions in International Law
- Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), The
- Shining Path
- Social Scientific Theories of Imperialism
- Soviet Union in World War II
- Space Strategy, Policy, and Power
- Spatial Dependencies and International Mediation
- State Theory in International Relations
- Strategic Air Power
- Strategic and Net Assessments
- Sustainable Development
- Teaching International Relations
- Territorial Disputes
- Terrorist Financing
- Terrorist Group Strategies
- The Changing Nature of Diplomacy
- The Queer in/of International Relations
- Theories of International Relations, Feminist
- Theory, Chinese International Relations
- Trade Law
- Transnational Actors
- Transnational Social Movements
- Trust and International Relations
- UN Security Council
- United Nations, The
- US and Africa
- US–UK Special Relationship
- Vienna Conventions on Diplomacy and Consular Relations
- Voluntary International Migration
- War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714)
- Western Balkans
- Western Front (World War I)
- Westphalia, Peace of (1648)
- Women and Peacemaking Peacekeeping
- World Economy 1919-1939
- World Polity School
- World War II Diplomacy and Political Relations