Universiteit Leiden

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Socioeconomic diplomacy and global empire building, 16th-19th centuries


This summer school will explore the concept of socioeconomic diplomacy in the context of global empire building (16th-19th centuries).

The main questions to be assessed are:

  • In the context of empire building, where political and economic aims closely interrelate, how do we distinguish between ‘traditional’ political diplomacy and economic diplomacy? Is there even a distinction
  • What purposes did socioeconomic diplomacy serve in empires?  
  • How applicable are the general historiographical definitions of ‘commercial’, ‘economic’, ‘business’, ‘social’ and ‘cultural’ diplomacy to specifically global contexts?
  • What sources, methodologies and framings are best suited to approach these questions?  

These questions will be explored by comparing cases with a wide temporal, spatial and cultural (western and non-western) spread, to properly gauge the diversity but also commonalities found in socioeconomic diplomacy in empires, and especially the concepts and methodologies to assess it.  

The summer school will engage with several historiographical debates. Firstly, we touch upon new diplomatic history by moving beyond the political dimension, and also look at the socioeconomic aspects of diplomacy – both socioeconomic diplomacy in itself, and the social and economic effects of ‘political’ diplomatic activity on societies. Secondly, we assess debates in empire formation and stakeholdership, where non-state actors such as entrepreneurs/companies/bankers are increasingly recognized to have assumed a pivotal role at the intersection of the public and the private as contractors and ‘agents’ of imperial power, gaining diplomatic capital in the process. Lastly, we look at more methodological debates on source evaluation in global history, and how to account for fundamental imbalances and biases in western sources, and incorporate other types of sources into the corpus (in this case pertaining to diplomacy). 

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