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Imperial Ambassadresses between the Courts of Madrid and Vienna (1650-1700): Diplomacy, Sociability and Culture


"The aim of my project is to analyse the diplomatic and cultural role of the Imperial ambassadresses in the court of Madrid, along with the impact of their posts upon their subsequent lives in the court of Vienna. The chosen time frame is the second half of the 17th century, a period in which the foreign relations between the Spanish Monarchy and the Empire were marked by the so-called ""question of succession"".
The new diplomatic history dedicated to the early modern period has paid little attention to the wives of the ambassadors, despite the fact that in the 17th century these women received the meaningful title of ""ambassadresses"", which denotes respect on the part of the courts where their husbands carried out their embassies. The ambassadresses supported their husbands' networks and initiated diplomatic strategies such as patronage or mediation; furthermore, they acted as cultural agents, exporting works of art and books but also lifestyles, body cultures and sociabilities. Nevertheless, historiography continues to view the diplomatic activities of these women as the exception and not the rule. With this project I hope to demonstrate the opposite: the ambassadresses, although without holding the official post of ambassador, carried out diplomatic activities similar to those of their husbands.
To illustrate the importance of the ambassadresses, I will analyse the social, political and cultural profiles of the wives of the Empire's ambassadors in the court of Madrid (1650-1700), paying particular attention to the category of gender. As a starting point, I will use a broad concept of diplomacy, analysing its least-known informal elements. To this end, I will take special note of the material turn, exploring bodies and spaces and interpreting gestures and artefacts. My research will create narratives of continuity and discontinuity in the new diplomatic history and will serve as a launch pad for future gender studies in the field of foreign relations."

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Universitatsring 1
1010 Wien

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Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Friedrich Edelmayer (Prof.)
EU contribution
€ 248 379,60