Inventing Public Diplomacy in Early Modern Europe. How Printed Media Shaped Dutch International Relations, 1568-1713


How do communication revolutions affect international relations? Recent events such as the Arab Spring have inspired many studies into the role of social media in shaping modern international relations. As the Dutch National Research Agenda emphasizes, however, it is also important to investigate how media innovations shaped international relations in the past. In contrast to developments in the present, past communication revolutions can be analysed in the long term, and teach us about alternative strategies and outcomes of new media uses in diplomacy.

This project examines how one of the greatest communication revolutions of all time, the introduction of print, influenced international relations when diplomacy itself was taking on its modern shape. The overall aim is to analyse the impact of print on Dutch international relations in a comparative framework, and to assess its long-term development and effects (1568-1713). Through systematic, computer-assisted archival research we examine how, when and why European states used printed media to reach out to foreign audiences. Which new strategies of achieving both short-term goals and long-term soft power did states develop, and how did others respond to new diplomatic uses of print?

Premodern diplomacy has long been studied as a business of elites managing relations amongst themselves, shielded off from the wider population. In a pilot study to this project, I recently challenged this narrative and argued that we need to historicize the study of public diplomacy. Innovatively connecting the histories of print and diplomacy, this project will lay the factual, methodological and conceptual foundations for the study of public diplomacy in premodern Europe. In cooperation with partner institutions, we will share and discuss the history, theory and practice of public diplomacy with professional diplomats, journalists and scholars in other fields, and co-curate an exhibition on Dutch international relations in 2022.





Dr. H.J. Helmers

Verbonden aan

Universiteit van Amsterdam, Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Neerlandistiek


Dr. H.J. Helmers


01/09/2019 tot 31/08/2024