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Durham University

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Translating cultures: Diplomacy between the early modern and modern worlds

A research project of the Department of History, part of the Early Modern and Modern research groups.


Welcome to the AHRC network, ‘Translating cultures: diplomacy between the early modern and modern worlds’. Our network emerged from a series of discussions in Durham involving colleagues in History and Modern Languages, and Professor Isabella Lazzarini (Università degli Studi, Molise), who proved the catalyst when she came to the university as a Leverhulme Visiting Professor in 2012. Our ideas were taken further through our involvement in an intellectually exciting week-length research workshop in September 2012 Negotiating Europe. Practices, Languages, Ideology in Diplomacy, 13th-16th centuries in the town of Benasque, at the heart of the Spanish Pyranees, which brought together scholars from around Europe and North America. This laid the foundations for this network, which we hope reflects the vibrant interest in the practices of diplomacy in the early modern period, and also in its points of contact with issues of current practice.

We understand 'translating cultures' in terms both of how European powers sought orderly ways to engage with each other and the wider world through diplomacy, and of the ways that academic researchers and practitioners from different disciplines and perspectives can discuss these issues. The network’s chief purposes are to consider: (1) how early-modern powers with different political, religious, linguistic and cultural arrangements crossed boundaries to share languages of diplomacy (including symbolic languages - diplomatic rituals, space, material culture and gifts); (2) how researchers from different academic and national traditions can develop shared methodological approaches to these issues; (3) how early-modern researchers can engage in a mutually beneficial dialogue with the heritage sector, and with modern practitioners of diplomacy. In pursuing these aims, the network is working under the auspices of the Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Durham, and in partnership with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and more informally with the Society for Court Studies

This website will present some of the work of the network, and we hope will stimulate further collaborative work. On the website you will find information on the workshops, blogs from participants, links to various related research projects, and a series of podcasts, which will grow in number during the network’s lifetime. We are also looking at ways to develop resources via the website that will have a lifetime beyond the duration of the network.

If you have any questions, or would like further information, please do not hesitate to contact us.


The project is funded by the following grants.

  • The Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles), Getty Scholar in Residence, Medusean Colours.
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Standard Grant, Translating Cultures: The Languages of Diplomacy between the Early-Modern and the Modern Worlds.

Published Results

Chapter in book

  • Osborne, T (2012). 'Renaissance Diplomacy and the Early Modern State'. In Der wiederkehrende Leviathan: Staatlichkeit und Staatswerdung in Spätantike und Früher Neuzeit. Eich,Peter, Schmidt-Hofner, Sebastian & Wieland, Christian Universitätsverlag Winter, Heidelberg. 117-138.


From the Department of History

From other departments