Within the framework of the international conference "Perception and Representation. Brokers of Early Modern Diplomacy in their Self-Testimony" for graduates and postdocs, accounts of self-testimony by agents of early modern diplomacy will be examined and analysed as a historical source. The conference’s focus will be on self-perception and the perception of others, further on representational strategies of individual agents, for example of abbesses, princesses, prelates and scholars, merchants and military officers.

The conference’s emphasis will be on the representation of diplomatic activity in accounts of self-testimony. It will be considered in what way social factors like age, gender or education configured certain narrative structures.

This central question is used to confine a field in which “practices of writing” (Claudia Ulbrich/ Hand Medick/ Angelika Schaser) are employed to narrate normal and exceptional biographical situations. The conference aims to answer, how fissures or consistency with social norms and expectations are narrated: In what way was this biographical self-interpretation in accounts of self-testimony influential for the discourse on diplomacy? For example, an emphasis will be on the influence of social norms on the diplomatic agents’ self-representation. Did they conceal, insinuate, reveal, stress or construe certain facts?

Practical aspects of diplomacy left their mark on this biographical accounts. Diplomacy as a cultural and political practice had a considerable impact on the agents’ lives. Thus, it was necessary for diplomatic agents to master cultural, social and political techniques (the ability to read and write properly, rhetorics, manners,..) as well as to own social characteristics (sociability, reputation, political influence) or have a specific knowledge (f.e., a degree in Law).

This practical aspects can support or end a career at court or in a republic, include or exclude certain agents, require a breach of diplomatic rules or promote the professionalization of diplomatic agents. Though only through the discourse on diplomacy are these aspects able to have any social effect. First and foremost, they manage this by reproducing each agent’s individual life-world experience: “Writing as a social practice.” (Gabriele Jancke).

Assuming that the narrative configuration in accounts of self-testimony is altered by the factors mentioned above, their narrative function becomes vital. We may ask on,

  • the motivation and intention of accounts of diplomatic agents‘ self-testimony.
  • the influence of social factors (f.e., gender, education, social origin and social background, etc.) on the biographical narration of diplomatic activities.
  • the perception and representation of success and failure in diplomatic activity
  • the elements which were ignored, recognized, concealed or insinuated in the narrative account as factors of a successful or failed diplomatic activity.

 Additionally to official diplomacy other social groups as brokers of early modern Diplomacy will be examined in an actor-centered perspective by focussing on accounts of self-testimony. Contributions on the category gender and the narrative employment of masculinity and femininity are specifically welcome. The thematic orientation for papers is therefore broad and ample.


The conference is held in the context of the research project „Diplomacy in Conflict. Conflict Management in Early Modern Diplomacy” (Univ.Prof. Dr. Dorothea Nolde) at the University of Vienna. The conference aims at connecting graduates and postdocs primarily from Europe, who are working on the history of diplomacy. A publication of selected contributions is aspired.