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Cross-Cultural Diplomacy Compared: European Diplomats in South Asia (1600-1750)


Cross-Cultural Diplomacy Compared was a Leverhulme Trust-funded postdoctoral project (2016-2019) led by Dr Guido van Meersbergen. Building on recent trends in Global History and New Diplomatic History, this project's aims were to advance our understanding of early modern cross-cultural exchanges by studying the interactions between European and South Asian diplomatic actors in a diverse range of courtly settings. By organising events that brought together an international network of specialists, this project pursued its wider aim of developing a global perspective on the trans-cultural development of early modern diplomacy.

Project Description

Cross-Cultural Diplomacy Compared seeks to understand how early modern European and South Asian diplomatic actors interacted at different South Asian courts, forged diplomatic relationships, and mediated cultural difference. It compares and contrasts the activities of Dutch, English, and South Asian diplomatic agents in the Mughal Empire between circa 1600 and 1750. By comparing the diplomatic approaches of European envoys and their reception at South Asian courts with contemporary intra-Asian diplomacy, this project examines how individuals from different cultural, religious, linguistic, and political backgrounds engaged with one another’s symbolic language, social practices, and political concepts. It also explores how the European newcomers adapted to, and were incorporated into, a set of pre-existing diplomatic networks.

The project draws on approaches from diplomatic history, cultural history, and global history. It reconsiders the position of early modern European actors within the diplomatic world of Asia by focusing on their role as supplicants and tributaries to powerful Asian rulers. It also questions established Europe-centred narratives of the rise of early modern diplomacy by highlighting the significance of Asian actors and polities in this wider development. The research aims to result in a comparative monograph on European diplomatic practices in early modern Asia.

Project Events

  • 17 March 2019: ‘Diplomatic Petitioning between Christian and Islamic Polities: Commonalities and Contestations (1500-1700)’. Panel at Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting 2019, Toronto.

Project Talks

Project Publications


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