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20th Century Diplomatic History




Admission requirements

Class of 2013-2016: a 100-level WP course, ideally Introduction to International Relations and Diplomacy

Course description

Diplomacy is traditionally seen as the occupation of states, as represented by official representatives such as ambassadors. Likewise, Diplomatic History has generally aimed to recreate what happened between states in the past by means of the archival record preserved by governments and foreign ministries. While this is the starting point for this course, overall it takes a much broader view, offering a spectrum of approaches and different ways to consider diplomacy and diplomatic history through the twentieth century. Firstly, it introduces a range of diplomatic activities, from the high politics of summits and ambassadors through to the lower-level activities associated with the everyday woprk of embassies, including public diplomacy and cultural diplomacy. Secondly, it considers the role of non-governmental organisations and private individuals in international affairs, in the shape of two-track, sports, and citizen diplomacy. Thirdly, it looks at the particular approaches of niche diplomacy as ptracticed by ‘small states’ as they attempt to carve out a place for themselves in a diplomatic environment dominated by the ‘big players’. Lastly, it questions the importance of new trends such as digital diplomacy, which some see as transforming the diplomatic landscape and others disregard as passing trends without substance. The course therefore delves into twentieth century history in order to analyse diplomatic practice from a variety of angles. It also provides some reflections on trends in twenty-first century diplomacy. Overall, it asks students to reconsider existing interpretations of diplomacy and diplomatic history by asking questions such as ‘What is diplomacy for?’ and ‘Who is a diplomat?’

Learning objectives

The course is based around the following objectives:

  • To understand key themes and approaches in diplomatic history

  • To appreciate the differences between types of source material

  • To develop a critical perspective when reading and analysing texts and source materials

  • To be able to organise an independent research project, clearly present its structure and goals orally, and complete a clearly-written research paper

  • To be able to formulate clear arguments and research questions

Compulsory textbook