Accessing Arcana Imperii: Informal Channels for Early Modern States in Imperial Courts (Day 2)

Event: International Conference

Location: NEC conference hall

28 May 2024, 10.00-18.00
29 May 2024, 9.30-16.00

Over the course of the past few decades, the question has often been raised in the historiography on European diplomacy that we will inevitably fail to grasp an enormous part of the communication going on between the political players if we consider only official missions with formal princely accreditation. The actor-centred approach highlighted the importance of the individual diplomats’ networks in information gathering and exerting influence on the host country’s decision-making. Moreover, the role played by non-state actors was repeatedly pointed out: individuals who did not belong to the state apparatus could nevertheless frequently offer important services for the rulers in the realm of foreign policy, while also pursuing their own agenda. This conference, organised in the framework of the ERC project “The Diplomacy of Small States in Early Modern South-eastern Europe” (SMALLST) aims to offer a venue to enlarge the scope of this research that usually concentrates on the western part of Europe and bring into discussion the experiences of the early modern states in both parts of the continent and its immediate surroundings, from Northern Africa to the Caucasus. Also, looking beyond the usual frame of related discussions, which base their results on the cases of empires, the conference aims to provide a space for the diplomatic practices of small states that had much more limited resources than their larger counterparts and thus often had to rely on alternative ways of influencing the decision-makers of foreign courts.

The conference will address the following topic fields:

  • accessing foreign courts: apart from having their wishes declared at public audiences or negotiating with other rulers through official envoys, what other channels of creating influence at foreign courts can be observed in the diplomatic practices of early modern rulers?
  • creating networks: what were the means for early modern powers to gain support in the elites of other state entities of the age? Were there any ways to secure (or even formalize) the loyalty of those involved?
  • intermediaries and information brokers: how was it possible to make sure that people, who did not belong to the political elite of the foreign country, but had a direct access to it, would act as go-betweens between the interested parties and keep the interests of the foreign ruler in mind?
  • non-state actors: what was the framework for those outside the court to influence the relationship between two rulers? What could be the benefit of giving these people, with a clear political agenda of their own, credit and accreditation?
  • covert action and clandestine diplomacy: much of the most important diplomatic activities of early modern rulers were taken care of by people who did not go through the regular procedure of introducing foreign envoys at the court visited, e.g. received no public audience. This was especially the case of smaller states, who had to keep part of their diplomatic plans secret in order to avoid pre-emptive retribution from their stronger enemies. What kind of problems and conflicts did such practices cause in the realm of the otherwise highly formalized world of early modern diplomatic negotiations?




Tuesday, 28 May 2024

9:45–10:00 Welcome address

10:00–11:00 Keynote speech
Giorgio Rota (Austrian Academy of Sciences)
Informal Diplomatic Agents and Go-Betweens between Catholic Europe and Safavid Persia

11:00–11:20 Coffee break

11:20–13:20 Uncharted Channels
Chair: Radu G. Păun

Natalia Królikowska (University of Warsaw)
Knocking at the Gate of Felicity. The Crimean Tatar Envoys to the Ottoman Empire (1600s–1720s)

Zsuzsanna Hámori Nagy (HUN-REN Research Centre for the Humanities, Budapest)
The Diplomacy of a Deposed King: The Return of King Elect John II on the Throne of Transylvania (1552–1556)

Zsuzsanna Cziráki (Austrian Academy of Sciences / University of Szeged)
Information Gathering in the Principality of Transylvania through Informal Channels of Saxon Dignitaries in the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire (Late 16th Century)

13:00–14:10 Lunch break

14:10–16:10 Shifting Loyalties
Chair: Lovro Kunčević

Ovidiu Cristea (Nicolae Iorga Institute of History, Bucharest)
Changing allegiances: diplomacy and ceremonial during the reign of Radu Șerban of Wallachia. An episode of 1603

Oles Kulchynskyy (Istanbul University)
Invisible Friendship: Ukrainian Cossack Traces in Ottoman Inner Policies

Marian Coman (Nicolae Iorga Institute of History, Bucharest / University of Bucharest)
Words of Betrayal. Wallachian ‘Treasonous Letters’ (1462–1632)

Ágnes Szalai (HUN-REN Research Centre for the Humanities, Budapest)
Rebel or Prince-Candidate? Miklós Zólyomi and the Transylvanian’s Ottoman Diplomacy

16:10–16:30 Coffee break

16:30–18:00 State or Non-State?
Chair: Ovidiu Cristea

Domagoj Madunić (Zagreb University)
Borderland diplomacy: Negotiations between the Republic of Venice and Montenegrin communities during the War for Crete (1645–1651)

Tetiana Grygorieva (National University Mohyla Academy, Kyiv)
The Patriarch of Jerusalem as the Diplomatic Intermediary and the Promoter of the Emerging Cossack State

Gábor Kármán (HUN-REN Research Centre for the Humanities, Budapest)
Diplomat or Arch-Rebel? The Vicissitudes of Johannes Bocatius


Wednesday, 29 May 2024

09:30–10:30 Keynote speech
Matthias Schnettger (Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz)
Diplomacy with limited resources. Challenges and opportunities for Italian and German small states in the early modern society of the princes

10:30–10:50 Coffee break

10:50–12:50 Informality and Influencing
Chair: Marian Coman

Konstantinos Poulios (European University Institute, Florence)
Accessing Arcana Congressus. Informal Channels of Negotiation and Communication During the Carlowitz Peace Congress (1698-1699)

Nikša Varezić (University of Split)
Ci sono note le lunghezze della corte romana… How to Hasten the Procedure and Achieve the Desired Diplomatic Success? Example of the Dispute between Ragusa and Rome from 1662

Michał Wasiucionek (Nicolae Iorga Institute of History, Bucharest)
How to Make Friends and Influence People in the Danubian Principalities: Radu Mihnea, Gavril Movilă, and the Covert Diplomacy of Moldavian-Wallachian Pretenders, 1615–1618

Giuseppe Pio Cascavilla (The British Museum)
“Impenetrable Seas”? Connections and Stratagems Used by the Agents of the Republic of Ragusa to Reveal the “arcani dei gabinetti” (“Secrets of the Cabinets”) in the 1770s.

12:50–14:00 Lunch break

14:00–16:00 Go-Betweens, Foreign Agents and Renegades
Chair: Vedran Stojanovic

Sándor Papp (University of Szeged)
Zülfikar Aga: Dragoman and Collector of Documents

Liviu Pilat (University of Iaşi)
Diplomacy and Social Drama: Ottoman Mission at Moldavian Court in the Summer of 1538

Ovidiu Olar (Austrian Academy of Sciences)
Late Sixteenth-Century Plans and Visions of the Constantinopolitan Seraglio

Magdalena Jakubowska (HUN-REN Research Centre for the Humanities, Budapest)
„Without this Jew, We Wouldn’t Have Known How to Satisfy the Court.” The Merchants’ Influence on Polish and Moldavian Diplomacy at the Ottoman Court in the 16th Century



This conference is organized in the framework of the research project The Diplomacy of Small States in Early Modern South-eastern Europe (SMALLST) supported by European Research Council Consolidator Grant – ERC (CoG) 101043451.