Harnessing Anger and Shame: Emotional Diplomacy in Early Modern Context

In: Diplomatica
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Emotions were, in early modern literature on diplomacy, described as a parasitic and even dangerous manifestation, and this view has endured until today. A series of recent books and articles published in the field of the history of emotions lays however the groundwork to question this traditional analysis. This article thus aims to examine the possibility of a broader and more strategic use of emotions in early modern diplomacy than is often acknowledged, and therefore the possibility of what can be called an early modern emotional diplomacy. I will first provide a summary of what the honnête homme culture of Europe’s ruling class meant for an ambassador in terms of emotion control. I will then show, through a few examples from diplomatic occurrences during Charles ii of England’s late reign, some of the possible uses of emotion in early modern diplomacy. Thirdly, I will study through one very memorable display of emotion from the English king the way such a display could be prepared and staged in order to achieve full effectiveness. Lastly, I will put these one-time emotional displays in the perspective of Charles ii’s international policy, arguing that they were not conceived as isolated occurrences but as parts of a real diplomatic strategy in which emotion played a crucial role, in other words an emotional diplomacy.

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