Diplomats represent a classic example of border-crossing intermediaries, yet political communication between early modern states and communities was not conducted by formal ambassadors alone. This week we will focus on the diverse group of actors involved in early modern diplomatic exchange in a variety of contexts, from the grand court of the Mughal emperors to the foreign quarters of Istanbul and the backwaters of New England. We will pay particular attention to the importance of everyday communications and linguistic contacts.
John-Paul Ghobrial, The Whispers of Cities: Information Flows in Istanbul, London, and Paris in the Age of William Trumbull (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), Ch. 4: ‘Overcoming Distance in Everyday Communication’, pp. 88-121. Link.
Katherine Grandjean, American Passage: The Communications Frontier in Early New England (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015), Ch. 3: ‘Native Tongues’, pp. 76-110. Link.
Primary Source Texts
Thomas Roe, William Foster (ed.), The Embassy of Sir Thomas Roe to the Court of the Great Mogul, 1615-1619, as Narrated in his Journal and Correspondence (2 vols. London: Hakluyt Society, 1899), Vol. II, pp. 553-561. Link. or Link.
- Observe William Trumbull's communications network (pp. 110-1): what does it tell us about the types of go-betweens that facilitated the day-to-day business of diplomacy?
- How can our understanding of early modern diplomatic exchange be enriched by looking at sociability and everyday communication?
- What kind of go-betweens appeared on the New England frontier and which roles did they play in cross-cultural exchanges?
- Which larger conclusions can you draw from Grandjean’s account regarding the nature of boundaries and cross-cultural interaction?
- Looking at seventeenth-century Istanbul and New England: how did information cross linguistic and cultural boundaries?
- In what ways did Sir Thomas Roe act as a go-between and how is this manifested in the instructions he received (documents V and VI)?
- Through which rhetorical moves do James I (document IV) and Jahangir (documents VII and VIII) seek to transcend differences and establish mutuality?
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