Centres of Diplomacy, Centres of Culture I: The Habsburg and Papal Courts c.1450 to c.1630

Event Date: 
21 Sep 2015 to 22 Sep 2015

 The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities

Diplomatic studies increasingly focus on the cultural and social aspects of diplomatic practice and stress the agency of individuals within international relations. Despite this, many scholars often still investigate within the parameters of national diplomatic corps or explore one end of a bilateral relationship. In contrast, this conference will focus on the cohorts of diplomats sent by different polities to the Habsburgs and Popes to explore the ways in which diplomacy fostered cultural exchange (defined broadly) at early modern courts in this crucial period for the development of the type and scope of diplomatic activity with which early modern rulers engaged. It will ask how did diplomats learn the rules of diplomatic practice from one another and their host court? To what extent did their host court learn about how to conduct longer-term diplomacy from them? How did diplomats’ enacting of their own cultural norms influence the foreign political culture in which they operated? What impact did this and the diplomatic exchange of ideas, material goods, and books have on diplomatic culture? To what extent did distinct diplomatic cultures develop at early modern courts?

This event aims to bring early career scholars working on such questions from different disciplinary angles (including, but not limited to History, History of Art, Modern Languages, English) into productive dialogue with one another. The conference will also feature a lunchtime workshop with specialists from the museum sector about working with museums for public engagement and teaching.


Monday 21 September

1.45     Registration and Coffee

2.15     Welcome and opening remarks

2.30     Session One: Anglo-Spanish diplomatic exchanges at the Spanish court

            Mark Hutchings, Diplomacy narratives as documents of performance

Berta Echevarria, Staging the peace or how the Earl of Nottingham sat on a stool

3.45     Coffee

4.15     Session Two: Diplomatic cultures at the Habsburg courts

            Dries Raymakers,  The overrated rulers. Disputed sovereignty and diplomatic squabbles at the Habsburg court of Brussels, 1598-1621

Camille Descenclos, Solidarity as key to success for non-Habsburg polities? Interactions between French and Papal diplomats at the courts of Brussels and Vienna

            Tracey Sowerby, Tudor diplomats and cultural opportunities at the Habsburg courts in Brussels and Madrid in the mid sixteenth century

6.00     Drinks

7.15     Conference dinner (Speakers only)

Tuesday 22 September

9.30     Session Three: Intellectual culture and diplomacy at the Habsburg courts

Bryan Kozik, Humanism and diplomacy at the Habsburg Court: the varied roles of Ioannes Dantiscus

Rubén González Cuerva, Diplomacy through households: Empress Mary of Austria, ambassador Juan de Borja and Spanish intellectuals at the Imperial Court (1577-1581)

10.45   Coffee

11.15   Session Four: The Papal court, ceremony and textual production

Catherine Fletcher, When the papal court met the Habsburg court: reflections on Hogenberg's Gratae et laboribus aequae posteritai Caesareas

            Alessia Loaicano, Diplomacy, cultures and conclaves. Julius II and Charles d'Amboise

12.30   Lunch

2.00     Session Five: Working with museums and the heritage sector

3.00     Coffee

3.30     Session Six: Diplomatic reporting, identity, and exchange at the papal court

Ovanes Akoyopan, The papal court and Russia in the sixteenth century: from opposition to political and cultural contacts

Dorota Gregorowicz, The final reports of papal diplomats as a cultural message – the case of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

4.45     Closing remarks and discussion

Attendance at the conference is free, but registration is required. Please email Tracey.sowerby@history.ox.ac.uk to reserve a place and please indicate if you have any dietary requirements. Registration will close on 10 September.


This is the first of two conferences supported by a BARSEA that will explore diplomatic cultures at early modern courts. The second, to be held in 2016 will focus on the French, English, and Ottoman courts.


Submission date for papers: 
12 Jun 2015