To what extent did diplomacy effect the rise of the modern state from 1648-1815?

Modern diplomacy had its beginnings with the Westphalia Treaties of 1648, and from thence forth began to mold and shape the nations of that day and continues up until the present. Looking at how diplomacy affected the rise of empires and the modern state between Westphalia and the Congress of Vienna subsequent to the exile of Napoleon Bonaparte on the isle of Saint Helena in July of 1815, we can see how diplomatic development affected the world as we know it today. This paper will also look at the different perspectives that author's Nation and Black have in regards to how and why modern states and their diplomacy developed.

And it will also examine the growth of diplomacy and foreign relations as an institution which is now deeply entrenched in the operations of all modern states.

Keywords: Westphalia, Congress of Vienna, diplomacy, foreign relations

To what extent did diplomacy effect the rise of the modern state from 1648-1815?

Prior to the Westphalia Treaties of 1648 interactions between nations was handled strictly by the kings, queens, emperors and other rulers who would simply send an envoy with a personal message.

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After the devastating Thirty Years War nations were pressed for peace and out of this destruction came the Westphalia Treaties that not only concluded the war but ushered in a new period of diplomacy. This period of diplomacy is what is now known as the "classic" period of international diplomacy, and lasted until the Congress of Vienna as a result of the defeat and exile of Napoleon Bonaparte.

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Diplomacy grew from infancy into a key support for the modern state as we know it today. Both Nathan and Black argue for the importance of diplomacy and how it affected the rise of the modern state, albeit from very different perspectives which I will contrast in this paper. Even as early as 1815 diplomacy had become deeply entrenched in the affairs of all modern states, as well the lesser developed nations or civilizations, and we began to see the development of multi-national private corporations and non-governmental organizations.

The Congress of Westphalia was the first time in history that large numbers of 'diplomatic' envoys, representatives, plenipotentiaries, and clerics assembled for the purpose of concluding the devastation of war. Because this was the first wide-spread use of plenipotentiaries that had full authority to represent the head of state and make decisions based upon guidance from the ruler as opposed to being simply a messenger that had to continually return to get the answer, Westphalia is seen as the birthplace of modern diplomacy.

While many practices of modern diplomacy existed prior to the Westphalia Treaties, such as the northern Italian city-states establishment of permanent embassies with other city-states and long standing expectations of proper treatment of diplomatic envoys that led to the concept of diplomatic immunity, it was Westphalia that established the actual profession of diplomat. "The Westphalia settlement marked the start of a novel premise in international affairs...The final settlement of armed disputes, after Westphalia, was no longer left to the province of military contractors and theologians. Instead, the termination of war fell within the purview of a new and identifiable coterie: a class of professional diplomats and warriors sworn to the service of a state." (Nathan, 2002, p. 17) Prior to Westphalia these was no recognizable diplomatic profession, however afterward diplomacy was practiced by this new-found profession to such a degree that "the diplomatic craft was practiced by a kind of well-born guild, with members who were adept at melding reason, precedent, and law with quiet allusion to the implication of armed compunction." (Nathan, 2002, p. 17)

Westphalia affected Western European nations and how they conducted diplomacy, and to some degree affected Eastern European nations in that they had constant dealings with their fellow Europeans. It was Westphalia that defined classic diplomacy during the period of 1648-1815, and so changed the way that nations dealt with each other, viewed each other, and even themselves. Rather than think of themselves as purely Catholic or Protestant, people began to think of themselves in a nationalistic way as well, such as French, Spanish, or British and as such rather than follow a far off edict from a Pope or King could begin to shape their national destiny. "The Westphalia methodology seemed so successful that within 80 years Europeans believed they had once again become bound up in a wholly new, and now palpably secular, "international society." After 1648, Europeans started to become accustomed to dealing with large issues at major gathering." (Nathan, 2002, p. 3)

Outside of Western Europe the remainder of the world still existed with all of its major empires and civilizations. The Ottoman Empire stretched from Algiers in Northern Africa and Budapest in Eastern Europe encompassing the entire Black Sea, to Baku on the Caspian Sea and modern Kuwait on the Persian Gulf; and was the dominate land empire of the day that the Europeans dealt with. The Persians, Russians, Prussians (Holy Roman Empire), Mughals and Chinese were other dominate empires that existed during the period of classic diplomacy that had an impact on its development. While most of Africa did not identify itself along geographic nations there were distinct civilizations that had centers of power until the colonial period began, and their existence impacted how diplomacy was conducted within the colonial nations.

It is in studying the development of modern states and hence diplomacy during the classic period that we see the differences between Nathans' and Blacks' focus. Whereas Nathan focused almost exclusively on France and their impact upon diplomacy and world events, Black had a broader focus that included the entire known world. Nathan explains how Cardinal's Richelieu and Mazarin led France and developed French foreign policy which eventually became what most nations follow today. Cardinal Richelieu created the first foreign ministry and placed ambassadors in every important capital. During the negotiations of Westphalia Mazarin was able to secure an outcome that was favorable to France, and therefore France benefitted more than most nations. Nathan then goes into great detail about the life and kingship of Louis XIV, to include his diplomacy.

King Louis XIV began his rule in 1661 after the death of Cardinal Mazarin and his rule was dominated by his constant warfare up until his death in 1715. While he certainly increased the territory of France itself and its colonies his greatest legacy to diplomacy was his signing of the Treaty of Utrecht which preserved the balance of power of the European system. Additional actions of Louis XIV that furthered diplomacy was to establish a Franco-Ottoman Alliance (Faroqhi, 2004, p. 73), and establish an embassy in Morocco while at the same time receiving a Moroccan ambassador and expanding trade (Tapie, 1984, 2. 259). Diplomatic relations with Siam began as early as 1673 (Smithies, 2002), and the Siamese attempted to establish an embassy in 1680 however it was lost at sea so King Narai dispatched another in 1684 (Smithies, 1999, p. 1). King Louis XIV sent a commercial mission in 1682 and diplomatic mission establishing an embassy after receiving the Siamese embassy, and attempted to build a French naval base at Margui. (Wyatt, 1984, p. 115) The French had so much influence over King Narai that upon his death in 1688 and a coup by one of his advisors, Phetracha, all but the Jesuit missionaries were expelled to limit western influence upon Siam. Another empire that France had early diplomatic relations with was Persia. In 1715 Persia sent an embassy to the court of King Louis XIV which succeeded in establishing a permanent Persian consulate in Marseille. (Coller, 2006)

After King Louis XIV's death Nathan believes that Europe descended into "unscrupulous statesmanship." (Nathan, 2002, p. 41) But then he goes on to state "Nevertheless, there was a change from the practice of the seventeenth century. As diplomatic intercourse and comity between states grew, the execution of foreign policy expanded beyond the purview of a few clerks and several ambassadors. The increase in diplomatic functions necessitated the development of foreign officers with separate departments, intelligence operations, lawyers, and a permanent staff of officers of various rank who were sent abroad to manage the affairs of their respective countries. The 'interests of state' were no longer decided by the king alone (they had not been for some time in England), but by wealthy merchants, financiers, holders of title and inherited wealth, and the royal family. This devolution of foreign policy to bureaucrats and numerous groups helped to make policy both more predictable and more conservative." (Nathan, 2002, p. 42-43) Modern diplomacy grew from its birth at Westphalia into infancy during this time. And alongside the growth of diplomacy grew the concepts of 'balance of power' and 'nationalism,' which both grew even further after the French Revolution, and subsequent Congress of Vienna.

While Nathan intricately details some of the diplomatic discourse of the French, Black details the details of nations and the spread of Western European empires. Black does not discuss diplomacy per se, but does allude to it when he details the way in which the nations expanded, fought, and conducted their commercial exploits. While discussing the Russian war against the Ottomans Black states "In 1739, in contrast, when the Russians were making major advances at the expense of the Ottomans, the French encouraged the Swedes to threaten Russia in order to distract them." (Black, 2008, p. 73) In fact upon thoroughly reading Black we find his first outright reference to anything that could be termed 'diplomatic' would be his reference to the Dey of Algiers sending an embassy to London. (Black, 2008, p. 97) And his next outright reference to diplomacy isn't until he is discussing the century of 1920 when he states "Instead, in finance as in diplomacy, there was a strong interest in a viable and consensual international order, with new institutions serving as the foci for multi-lateral diplomacy." (Black, 2008, p. 142)

While Black effectively discusses the rise of the modern state including all of the pertinent empires, not just Western Europe (namely France) as Nathan does, he only infrequently alludes to diplomacies role in the rise of the modern state. Nathan more effectively discussed diplomacies role, albeit from a very narrow focal point of France and Western Europe he does recount some of both Russian and Prussian issues of statecraft to include their diplomacy or lack there-of. Nathan recounts "The 'operational code' of Frederick's statecraft violated the nascent sense of European community. Good relations between diplomats were possible when the ruling houses of Europe shared the same traditions of culture and civility toward one another." (Nathan, 2002, p. 47) Both Black and Nathan must be understood within the context of their writings as Black presents a more strategic view of the world at the time and the rise of the modern state, it is Nathan who presents the tactical view of how an individual nation (France) actually accomplished its rise into a modern state.

The classic period of diplomacy that occurred between 1648 and 1815 occurred during the same time frame that several modern states rose to power, and turned into todays' hegemonies. It was the defeat of Napoleon and his armies that led to the Congress of Vienna, which was the first in a series of international diplomatic congresses that came to be known as the Concert of Europe. The Congress of Vienna was held by the four hegemonic powers of Europe at the time Austria, France, Britain, and Russia and there they decided the borders of France, the Netherlands, as well as German and Italian states (Holy Roman Empire). It also formally established a system of diplomatic ranks as follows: 1. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary; 2. Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary; 3. Minister Resident, and 4. Charg� d'Affaires. The Congress of Vienna was the fore-runner to the League of Nations and was what formed the foundation for the European system of international politics and diplomacy until the outbreak of WWI in 1914.

In hindsight as we study history and specifically the period of history between Westphalia in 1648 and the Congress of Vienna in 1815, a period now referred to as 'classic diplomacy,' we can see its impact upon the modern world. Both nations and empires grew during this period, and as such so did their foreign relations. We have diplomatic historians and authors to compare and contrast differing view-points, such as Nathan and Black, which give us a complete picture of the world at that time when they are viewed together. Additionally we now have a reference for how and why various forms of diplomacy are conducted today and why there are various forms of diplomatic rank. Today diplomacy is conducted by both state and non-state entities such as multi-national corporations, non-governmental operations, non-profit groups, and other organizations such as churches and religious entities.

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To what extent did diplomacy effect the rise of the modern state from 1648-1815?. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

To what extent did diplomacy effect the rise of the modern state from 1648-1815?
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