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Consumption and Diplomacy


Following from last week's exploration of collecting and forms of ownership, this seminar examines the ways in which consumption, including both collecting and gift-giving, underpins diplomatic activity. In this it also builds on the seminar in week 2 devoted to the connections between politics and consumption.

Research on the history of diplomacy has increasingly turned to questions of social and cultural practices and the meanings they hold in shaping relations between political entities. Focusing on issues such as diplomatic gift-giving, courtly ceremonial, dress, banqueting, art, and drinking, this seminar spans the wide range of topics linking diplomacy to cultures of consumption. We will also take a more in-depth look at the material culture of diplomacy as represented in objects housed in museum collections today.

Please come to the seminar prepared to introduce one further reading of your own choice to your peers and to discuss the object you selected (please see Seminar Question 4).

Seminar Questions

  1. In what ways is consumption a relevant concept for studying the history of diplomacy?
  2. How have historians of diplomacy engaged with material culture and consumption and how has it changed the discipline?
  3. What does a focus on diplomacy have to offer to the study of consumption?
  4. Examine one of the following object from the V&A collection in detail and consider its relevance as a source for understanding diplomacy and consumption: (17-1925); (M.97-1949); (IS.41-1980); (1085-1882); (WM.696-1997).

Core Readings

Harriet Rudolph, ‘Entangled Objects and Hybrid Practices? Material Culture as a New Approach to the History of Diplomacy’, in Harriet Rudolph and Gregor M. Metzig (eds.), Material Culture in Modern Diplomacy from the 15th to the 20th Century (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2016), pp. 1-28. Link.

Zoltán Biedermann, Anne Gerritsen and Giorgio Riello, 'Introduction: Global Gifts and the Material Culture of Diplomacy in Early Modern Eurasia', in: Gobal Gifts: The Material Culture of Diplomacy in Early Modern Eurasia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), pp. 1-33. LinkLink opens in a new window.

Further Reading

Bacciolo, Andrea, ‘The Diplomacy of Taste: Maratti, Contini, Bellori, and a Banquet Hosted by Carlo Barberini for the Ambassador of King James II’, Storia dell’Arte 142.42 (2015), pp. 85-104. Link.

Barclay, Paul D., ‘‘Gaining Confidence and Friendship’ in Aborigine Country: Diplomacy, Drinking, and Debauchery on Japan's Southern Frontier’, Social Science Japan Journal 6.1 (2003), pp. 77-96. Link.

Clulow, Adam, ‘Splendour and Magnificence’: Diplomacy and Sumptuary Codes in Early Modern Batavia’, in Giorgio Riello and Ulinka Rublack (eds.), The Right to Dress: Sumptuary Laws in a Global Perspective, c.1200–1800 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), pp. 299-324. Link.

Fletcher, Catherine, Diplomacy in Renaissance Rome: The Rise of the Resident Ambassador (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), esp. Ch. 6: ‘Locating Diplomacy in the City of Rome’. Link.

Heal, Felicity, ‘Presenting Noble Beasts: Gifts of Animals in Tudor and Stuart Diplomacy’, in Sowerby, Tracey A., and Jan Hennings (eds.), Practices of diplomacy in the Early Modern World c.1410-1800 (London and New York: Routledge, 2017), pp. 187-203.

Herrmann, Rachel B., ‘“No useless Mouth”: Iroquoian Food Diplomacy in the American Revolution’, Diplomatic History 41.1 (2017), pp. 20-49. Link.

Jacobsen, Helen, ‘Luxury Consumption, Cultural Politics, and the Career of the Earl of Arlington, 1660-1685’, The Historical Journal 52.2 (2009), pp. 295-317. Link.

Mahon, Elaine, ‘Irish Cuisine: Irish Diplomatic Dining’, The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 41 (2018), pp. 124-155. Link.

Morgan, Linda, ‘Diplomatic Gastronomy: Style and Power at the Table’, Food and Foodways 20.2 (2012), pp. 146-166. Link.

Riello, Giorgio, ‘“With Great Pomp and Magnificence”: Royal Gifts And The Embassies Between Siam And France In The Late Seventeenth Century’, in Zoltán Biedermann, Anne Gerritsen, and Giorgio Riello (eds.), Global Gifts: The Material Culture of Diplomacy in Early Modern Eurasia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), pp. 235-265. Link.

Talbot, Michael, British-Ottoman Relations, 1661-1807: Commerce and Diplomatic Practice in Eighteenth-Century Istanbul (London: Boydell & Brewer, 2017), Ch. 5: ‘Diplomacy as Performance’, pp. 141-172. Link.