Recently, the new diplomatic history has put a particular emphasis on studying the frontiers of the early modern European société des princes and historians have progressively taken into account hitherto marginalized diplomatic agents and localities like Moscow or Istanbul. Far from being at the edge of the European diplomatic system, the latter is now seen as one of the most dynamic political venues of Europe and the Mediterranean. Two sorts of scholarship have contributed to this renewal. First, historians of early modern Europe have paid a particular attention to the increasing inclusion of the Sublime Porte into the European system of diplomatic representation. They show how political communication adapted according to the dynamic balance of power established between the Sultan and his interlocutors, and how, in Istanbul, representatives of Christian princes and states competed to get the recognition of the ceremonial precedence of their respective masters. Second, putting an emphasis on ‘intermediaries’, ‘brokers’, and ‘proxies’ like merchants, dragomans, and captives, Mediterranean historians have highlighted the multiple connections framing diplomatic networks in the Eastern Mediterranean and the rich economic, social, political, and cultural resources that diplomatic agents could mobilise in support of their mission.
Focusing on Istanbul and its surroundings in the eighteenth century, our workshop proposes to examine the social life of diplomats in a metropolitan and cosmopolitan context in order to gain a better understanding of the functioning of diplomacy in a transcultural context. In the light of a seemingly homogenous Western European ‘diplomatic civilization’, based on the foundations laid in Westphalia, operating at a non-Christian court may have been a challenge for French, German, or English diplomats. However, focusing on the social dimension, we hypothesize that a cross-cultural context could also facilitate diplomatic exchange due to a greater tolerance of difference and thus of ‘unconventional’ methods that could be more easily adapted to the circumstances. This leads to the reassessment of some commonly accepted elements of the history of diplomacy in Istanbul. Did the European diplomatic corps really live isolated from their host society? How much did they depend on the linguistic and social skills of their dragomans? Did their influence reach beyond the limits of the suburb of Pera?
To answer these questions we would like to invite historians to focus on the everyday life and work of diplomats and diplomatic agents in Istanbul and to pay attention on the different social circles in which they operated. The urban dimension is an essential element to be taken into account in order to understand the availability of social resources for diplomats, how information circulated in the city, how parties/clienteles were formed, how the social bonding functioned, and how and why social bonds were institutionalized (or not). If Pera is at the centre of our analysis, we would like also to reassess the importance of other places of Istanbul’s surroundings as well, like Büyükdere and the village of Belgrad, places where diplomats, and not only them, used to stay during the summer months or at times of plague epidemics. Retreats and places of leisure, these villages constituted distinctive societies where European diplomats and Ottoman officials occasionally mixed. Although Pera and Istanbul’s northern villages are regularly mentioned in dispatches, travelogues, and memoirs, we still now very little about the social life they hosted and about their significance for diplomats and diplomacy.
Please apply with a short cover message, an abstract of the planned presentation of no more than 200 words, as well as a Curriculum Vitae to David Do Paço (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Pascal Firges (email@example.com). Presentations will have a length of no more than 20 minutes. Work-in-progress is welcome. The working language is English. Travel costs and accommodation for participants can be covered only partially.