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Public Diplomacy in Early Modern Europe: Theatrical Entertainments for the State Journeys of English and French Royals into the Low Countries, 1577-1642

Project description

An artistic view of early public diplomacy

One way for governments to conduct foreign policy and promote national interests is through direct outreach and communication with the population of a foreign country. This is called public diplomacy (PD). Historians have shown that PD used the media in the 16th and 17th centuries. However, the role that performing arts played in foreign relations is often overlooked by scholars. The EU-funded PUBLICDIPLOMACY project will explore the diplomatic function and reception of the early modern performing arts. The focus will be on state journeys made by the English and French royal crown into the Low Countries between 1577 and 1642.


European governments often rely on social media to manage their international relations. This is what scholars of international relations have called Public Diplomacy (PD): the effort of diplomatic actors to influence foreign affairs by reaching out to international audiences through actor-to-public interaction. Rather than being a modern invention, historians such as Helmer Helmers and William T. Rossiter have demonstrated that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries printed media were already widely used for PD. Knowledge of this tradition helps to increase historical awareness about ideas and practices of diplomatic communication and collaboration prior to the foundation of the European Union. However, regularly overlooked in scholarship on the early modern history of PD and diplomacy in general is the important role that the performing arts—much like social media today—played in managing foreign affairs. My research project aims to redress the balance and expand knowledge about the diplomatic function and reception of the early modern performing arts within the context of the state journeys that the English and French royal crown made into the Low Countries between 1577 and 1642. Never been studied in depth before, the theatrical entertainments given for the voyages, including tableaux vivants, triumphal processions, and mock naval battles, constitute an excellent example of early modern PD. I will produce the first book-length student to analyse how the theatrical entertainments served as both lubricants in negotiations between representatives of the Low Countries, England, and France, and as tools for promoting collaboration between those countries to a European audience of diplomats, nobles, and commoners. By bringing together the fields of early modern diplomacy and the performing arts, my monograph boasts a genuinely interdisciplinary approach to the state journeys that is essential to understanding the historical development of modern PD.


Net EU contribution
€ 175 572,48
2311 EZ Leiden

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West-Nederland Zuid-Holland Agglomeratie Leiden en Bollenstreek
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 175 572,48