Yellow banner with pen and letters

author: J. Thomas Converse

How do you know what you think you know?

2002

In his paper, J. Thomas Converse focuses on four records-related areas where the issues of knowledge management and diplomacy come together and provide the greatest challenges to archivists, diplomats, historians and technology providers: validation, trustworthiness, context and longevity. He also explores some of the changes and challenges brought about by technology, and urges for a continued embrace of technology, while at the same time demanding the validating and relational functions which give archives their trustworthiness.
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When preparing this presentation I initially found it somewhat difficult to decide what its focus would be. Archival and records management theory and practice, knowledge management, information technology and diplomacy at first glance seem to be a pretty disparate group of topics for a 30 minute presentation. It can, however, be done. I chose to focus on four records-related areas where these issues come together and provide the greatest challenges to archivists, diplomats, historians and technology providers. These areas are: (1) validation, (2) trustworthiness, (3) context and (4) longevity.

Having been intimately concerned with diplomatic records as a creator of them, a consumer of them and a custodian of them has given me a well-rounded view of their importance, their functions and their limitations. As a result of my background with the State Archives of Kentucky, the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. National Archives and my current position as head of the records section of the Inter-American Development Bank I have become more and more convinced that an organization which has a well conceived and fully functioning records management program will have a solid archives and that that archives can be an essential contributor to the information and knowledge needs of the organization. On the other hand, an organization which lacks a solid foundation regarding both its current and its non-current records will be building its information structures on sand and will pay a heavy price for such a state of affairs. So, with my biases exposed, let us turn to some definitions of archives and look at their implications for diplomacy, especially in light of the new technologies.

DEFINITIONS OF ARCHIVES

The archival Magna Carta is Sir Hilary Jenkinson’s A Manual of Archive Administration, published in 1922. This manual is the departure point for discussions of archival theory and practice, at least in the English speaking world. Sir Hilary, in a later essay, defined archives as “the Documents accumulated by a natural process in the course of the Conduct of Affairs of any kind, Public or Private, at any date; and preserved thereafter for Reference, in their own Custody, by the persons responsible for the Affairs in question or their successors.” In an article in the Spring, 1994 issue of the American Archivist, Luciana Duranti quotes this definition and further cites Jenkinson’s Manual in which she notes that “because they [archival documents] are created as a means for, and a by-product of, action, not ‘in the interest or for the information of Posterity,’ and because they are ‘free from the suspicion of prejudice in regard to the interests in which we now use them,’ archival documents are impartial and ‘cannot tell…anything but the truth.’” Now this is a startling concept—that archives are inherently trustworthy and useful precisely because they were generated as a by-product of recording the daily business transactions of an organization (or individual) and without regard to how they might be used by other people for other reasons in other times.

Laundry lists

A couple of examples might be illustrative. Consider, for example, the laundry lists of a medieval monastery and why they might be a very useful research tool. Some monk, or succession of monks, created, over a period of time, lists of dirty linen and what happened to it. These records express no interest in anything else going on in their organization, much less in their society as a whole. Whatever went into the laundry lists was validated as having to do with that topic by the mere fact of inclusion. Those responsible for the laundry records did not intermix records dealing with other matters; if it didn’t have to do with dirty linen, they didn’t accept them. Once accepted as germane, the records were arranged in ways most useful to the laundry department—by name of monk, by type of material, by date, whatever was organically most useful to them. The fourth point to note is, of course, that they survived the vagaries of the centuries.

Exactly because of this specificity in why they were gathered together (validation); the fact of their being accepted by the organization as reliable (trustworthy); their internal groupings (context and arrangement) and their survival (longevity) it is possible to use such records with confidence in, for example: an analysis of administrative costs of religious institutions; the names and status of individual monks based on the numbers of articles to be washed or numbers of changes of clothing; studies of medieval textile trade patterns, perhaps even determining the names of individual weavers or cloth merchants; the internal hierarchy of the monastery; liturgical customs based on the use of various vestments; the dating of visits by passing royalty; seasonal changes in clothing; etc., etc. The very fact that the creators of the laundry lists were supremely indifferent to providing information on administrative costs, names and status of monks, the textile trade, weavers, hierarchies, liturgical issues, royal visits, seasonal changes, etc., etc.—makes the information which they provide about these areas so very valuable. They unconsciously provide the peripheral vision of history, without which history would suffer from tunnel vision.

As an aside, the examples I am using here illustrate that diplomatic (and indeed all) archives share certain common traits which offer particular challenges to the consumers of today’s information technology. These challenges include the development of computer functionality for the creation and maintenance of true records. To do this, records produced electronically must: (1) be able to be validated as being relevant to the business transaction at hand, (2) provide an environment which will allow records created in the normal course of business to maintain their inherent trustworthiness, (3) provide some architecture for maintaining a meaningful relationship among records and, perhaps the most difficult, (4) ensure survival over time. Surely it is not too much to expect the latest technology to at least provide the functionalities available to medieval monks.

Concentration camp records

This continuity of traits could be illustrated in any number of other examples. The records of Hitler’s Germany, for instance, captured by the U.S. Army after the fall of Berlin in 1945 were useful at the War Crimes trials in Nuremberg precisely because they were created without consideration of how they might be used outside the context of their creation. They did not have subject files arranged under the title “Atrocities” or “the Holocaust” but rather they were organic records of routine transactions relating to, for example, the administration of concentration camps. These routine transactional records might include orders of the day, receipts for supplies (such as poison gas), bills of lading for the shipment of personal effects (such as eye-glasses and gold teeth), personnel records which listed everyone from the camp commanders to the guards (including periods of service and position descriptions), routine periodic reports from the camp medical unit (which might include the results of experiments on human beings), mortality registers, incident reports of uprisings and how they were quelled; in short, all the usual, mundane records likely to be produced in the daily course of business in a well-ordered military installation. Only by reviewing such routine records does the full impact of what went on in these camps hit home. And these routine records were accepted without question by the War Crimes Tribunal because they were inherently trustworthy. As unalike as these records are from the monastery laundry lists, they share the common threads mentioned above—they are trustworthy because they had no interest in documenting anything other than the routine transaction at hand, the act of inclusion in the files served to validated the records, they were maintained in a meaningful order and they were preserved over time.

State Department records

Another body of records to consider might be those of the U.S. Department of State. Regular reports are submitted to Washington from all diplomatic and consular posts, and have been since the 1790s. Studies of U.S. foreign policy can be enhanced by going beyond the selected documents published in the “Foreign Relations of the United States” (the FRUS) and looking at these raw reports. Indeed, since the documents printed in the FRUS are selected after the fact, they are inherently less trustworthy than the original reports which must be, by definition, trustworthy. These reports were filed by name of diplomatic post and chronologically thereunder. The pre-1903 reports have been microfilmed and are available for use and purchase at the U.S. National Archives. An early 19th century consul might never have mentioned the words “foreign policy” in a report, but his comments on the treatment of U.S. ships by the local harbour master, the relative status of the U.S. ex-patriot community, the progress of civil and criminal cases through the local courts, the treatment of U.S. prisoners, the status of negotiations over export licenses, local gossip, rumours of coups, complaints about the unhealthy climate, currency fluctuations, local customs, language issues, legal issues, etc., provide a rich soup of information which was used then in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy and which can be mined for a variety of purposes today. This body of records is still receiving accretions to this day.

Let’s follow the path of how more recent diplomatic information becomes a part of these files by looking at the first foray of a junior foreign service officer into diplomatic reporting in the mid-1980s. To protect the innocent, let’s call him, oh, Tom, for the sake of this discussion. Shortly after his arrival at post, where he had begun his first tour as third secretary working in the consular section on the visa line, Tom attended a large reception at the ambassador’s residence. The food and liquor were excellent, the music and the lights were soft, all the movers and shakers were there. In other words, all the elements were in place for a hard night of diplomatic representational work. Now I’m not being sarcastic here—this is the setting in which much of the most important work of diplomacy is done. Here is where information (and misinformation) is exchanged, where friend and foe are sized up, where friendships are made and rivalries contested. What is of interest to the archivist, as well as to the historian and the diplomat, is how such environments produce meaningful records.

Well, back to Tom. During the course of the evening, he acquired some startling information. It could have been about currency fluctuations, or export restrictions, or the flow of illegal aliens, or the love-life of a prominent local figure or any one of a thousand topics. For the sake of this discussion, let us say that it related to a coup d’etat planned for the following month. As soon as he could find his consul general, Tom told her of his hot item and suggested that they notify Washington immediately. She, much wiser than Tom in the ways of diplomacy and how information was treated, listened and suggested that they follow the usual channels. (She certainly knew that awakening the Secretary of State at one in the morning to discuss coup rumours with a junior officer would not be a career-enhancing move.) Disappointed but undaunted, Tom began to navigate those channels which would lead his information into the safe waters of the diplomatic archives.

At Tom’s earliest opportunity he wrote a standard “memcon”, or memorandum of conversation, going on for pages about what an important piece of information he had and how it would change history. He took the time and trouble to set the scene, providing copious background information about the party, the ambiance, his reactions to it, how he thought the information he was sending should be used, whose side we should take in the imminent civil war, what he thought of all parties concerned, etc., etc. Little did he realize the process through which his multi-page opus would go before being transformed from information to record.

The first step was to transcribe it from hand-written notes into a customized word processing package and print it out onto a standard form, compatible with the communications equipment in use at the time which would convert it to a cable and transmit it to Washington. (Now this is an important part of the validation process—the physical format must be correct or the record will be summarily rejected.) Excitedly he sat down at the terminal and began to work. Certain information fields were required, such as drafter. That would be proud young Tom. Then the system asked for clearances. Young Tom put down his boss, the consul general. He put in certain codes which were attached to the cable-to-be, such as CO for consular matters, reflecting his assigned position. Proudly young Tom took the great document to his boss, sure it would be flashed to Washington at once, re-writing diplomatic history. Alas, illusions are grand but not always long-lived. The consul general took a heavy blue pen to the draft, pruning out much deathless prose, not even trying to be gentle as she pointed out that no one cared that Tom’s favourite scotch had been served at the party, whether or not the minister of justice’s wife had on the same dress as someone else, how the newly redecorated residence looked, and certainly no one wanted Tom’s opinions about the past, present or future. The purpose of the memcon was to report facts. Analysis was outside its scope. She also pointed out that even the subject code was incorrect. It had nothing to do with consular affairs, even though Tom might have been a consular officer. The proper subject was PO for Political issues. She increased the number of clearances to include the Deputy Chief of Mission and several others who had been at the reception. Unconsciously, as an organic part of her function, she was deepening the validation process by making sure that this embryonic document conformed to the standards of the records system of which it would form a part, both in terms of format and content. Once she had finished pruning, it went through the clearance process. The DCM made a few additions to the message, such as the fact that the high-ranking officer who was the source of this report was involved in a simmering dispute with another high-ranking officer whose career he had often tried to damage. Another clearer mentioned that the source had been drinking heavily all evening and that he had been overheard saying that he was going to “get el Colonel” that night. Other clearers added other details. When all the clearances were signed off on, the much shorter cable was taken to communications where it was sent. Once received, it was copied, distributed and filed with two centuries of similar reports.

Diplomatic history was not, alas, re-written. No coup occurred. Luckily the “fact” had been vetted, placed in its context, recorded as a rumour and then properly filed away with all its brother and sister reports going back two hundred years. Young Tom could, however, take comfort in the knowledge that he had contributed to both diplomacy and history, albeit in a very small way, since his information had been converted into something worthy to be part of the archives of the U.S. Department of State. It had been (1) validated, making it (2) inherently trustworthy, (3) it had joined with many other accretions to the reporting files, putting it in its proper context and (4) it would be kept for further reference.

Other examples could include aerial photographs of Europe and Japan, Stasi files, secret correspondence of Louis XV, baggage lists from U.S. immigration, visa files, Czar’s secret police, and so on and so on, but I think that I have made my point about what gives a record archival value. I would now like to turn again to the issue which I raised earlier about new information technologies and the challenges and opportunities they offer to the “traditional” archives and records keeping systems.

CHANGES AND CHALLENGES OCCASIONED BY TECHNOLOGY

Because of the very success of archives in storing knowledge, new types of researchers are clamouring at their doors, demanding information in new formats and with new expectations of what can and should be done with the information “locked away in dusty old boxes”. These new demands hold great promise and create perils for archives and their users.

One of the results of this change of users and uses is the blurring of the distinctions between information and records. All records are information but certainly not all information is a record. Those who ignore this distinction do so at their peril. Let me give you a couple of instances to illustrate this distinction and how technology has been involved.

TWA Flight 800

This blurring of lines was brought home to me when Pierre Salinger, the former aide to John F. Kennedy, claimed to have proof that the U.S. Air Force shot down TWA flight 800 over Long Island a couple of years ago. I remember him standing before the TV cameras in Paris, waving a piece of paper and saying, “Here is proof that the Air Force did it.” As near as I can figure it out, the following happened. Mr. Salinger knew someone who worked in a French intelligence service. This person had obtained a copy of something which reportedly had been acquired by someone with access to the CIA’s computer system. What they found, and posted on the Internet, was a statement that the Air Force had been responsible. The mistake that Mr. Salinger made was to transfer the assumed trustworthiness of a properly “archived” document to a piece of free-floating information. The information which was obtained (or leaked or planted) was deracinated, it had no context. Where was it from? Was it indeed from the CIA? If so, how had it been identified? Was it from their “rumours” file? Or from their “usually reliable sources” file? Was it in their cables from the field or was it a photocopy of something from a tabloid which they had as part of their reference files of nonvalidated information? Had it been forged and put out as part of an attempt to exculpate the airlines or the manufacturers of the plane or by some conspiracy-obsessed individual or by someone who wanted to make a movie? Where is it now? It fails every test of “archivability”, to coin an inelegant word. It was nonvalidated, untrustworthy, without context and impermanent. And yet, because it came from a computer a person used to handling important information accepted it at face value. Where is technology taking us?

In the interests of time, I will pass over the issue of subject files and reference files and how they relate to archives. This could be the topic of a paper in itself.

To avoid merely complaining about misapplied technology and get specific I offer the following as minimum requirements which must be in place before records in electronic format could be acceptable to archivists, historians, diplomats or anyone else who depends of records on a daily basis:

  • A sine qua non is meaningful metadata. The capability exists to ensure that all relevant data about data being created and preserved electronically is present and accounted for. I would want to know that any system purporting to be an electronic records system is robust enough to carry the heavy burden of validating the information.
  • If electronic information is being represented as an archives, the standards which make it inherently trustworthy should be clearly defined. This can be done, but is expensive and complicated. Already there are records-keeping standards being developed in Australia and by the U.S. Department of Defence which are widely available. All of us must be clear that the computer term “archives” means to make a back-up copy. It has nothing to do with the functions of an archive. To mention a pet peeve of mine, “archives” is a noun, never a verb.
  • Provide context. A simple, direct-access, relational database is wonderful for quick answers, but as anyone who has done even a simple search on the Internet knows, the results of that search may provide you with every single one of the thirty references you may want for Marie, Princess of Battenberg of the House of Hesse, but if those references are buried within 250,000 hits covering Battenberg lace, the Hesse Oil Company, the Princess cruise line, every real estate company selling houses and Herman Hesse, what have you got? In the field of archival cataloguing some of the most fiendishly difficult challenges involve the linkages between related files, series, sub-series, documents, etc. It can be done, but is also expensive and complicated.
  • Provide longevity. (This may be the biggest challenge of all.) The current life-expectancy of five years for a computer application is not enough to guarantee that records will survive for as long as they are needed. In a related area, I also expect clear distinctions between the use of computers for access and for preservation and I expect both issues to be addressed. Confusion between them may present the greatest threat to the continued value of archives. They are not the same. Indeed they are sometimes diametrically opposed. Increasing access may put records at risk. Preservation issues may limit access. Those who say “Let’s use the power of the computers and scanners. Just put everything on the computer where we can search it and don’t worry about that old-fashioned paper” make ice-cold chills run up my spine. It’s not the paper I continue to long for, it’s the overt context I want to see. Another related spine-chilling comment is, “I’ve got what I need from this database. Just dump it.” We do not have to be Luddites to have concerns about any organization’s commitment to keep data fresh, to migrate it every five years or so, to keep all the metadata intact and to keep all the archival relationships clear, especially when the original creator or user has finished with it. Archivists and historians may know that there are lots of secondary uses of information, many of which are more important (to us, anyway) than the original use was. We must make sure that the IT department understands this use. I wonder how many electronic records will not make it across the Y2K divide because someone will decide that what’s on them is “just old stuff” or “we’re through with that file” and throw out the diskettes rather than spend valuable time and money ensuring that the information is preserved?

CONCLUSION

So where are we? Right where we started as far as archival principles go but light-years ahead as far as the tools available are concerned. Archives (and archivists) have survived paradigm shifts before; we have gone from clay tablets to papyrus to moveable type to punch cards and, yes, even diskettes. We’ll survive again. It’s the attrition rate of information loss as we cross that technological boundary which I would hope to reduce to a minimum. So let us embrace the power of the computer to provide us with access speeds we never imagined even a few years ago; let us take advantage of data-mining technologies, of messaging possibilities, of the Internet and the Intranet and the Web, let us do all we can do using the technologies on offer, but let us also demand the validating and relational functions which give archives trustworthiness for as long as they need to be kept. It would be ironic if the 21st century, instead of leading to a technological utopia were to lead us backward to an informational Dark Ages where institutions loose the ability to create and maintain trustworthy records which can stand as guardians of individual rights and as sources of information which can be used to unite us. Working together we can ensure that computers will bring us great benefits. Failure to articulate our mutual needs as information consumers and custodians might well mean that records-keeping concerns are not addressed when designing information systems and we will all inadvertently contribute to an epidemic of organizational Alzheimer’s.

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On the manner of practising the new diplomacy

The traditional model of diplomacy, founded on the principles of national sovereignty and of statecraft, is becoming less relevant as a field of new, influential actors enter the international system.

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Diplomacy and Power: Studies in Modern Diplomatic Practice

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The Office of Ambassador in the Middle Ages

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Diplomacy and the American Democracy

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Reflections on Persuasion in Diplomacy by Ambassador Joseph Cassar

In our families, in our jobs, in our political dynamic at a national level, we always try to persuade others, first and foremost. Since, diplomacy is part of the global human existence, it is natural that persuasion is an essential part and an essential tool of diplomacy … as much it is in your family life, in my family life, when you try to sort out trouble within your family, between your brothers and sisters, between your children and between your grandchildren at my age.

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Performance Management in Foreign Ministries: Corporate Techniques in the Diplomatic Service

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Diplomacy, Force & Leadership: Essays In Honor of Alexander L. George

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Diplomatic Classics: Selected texts from Commynes to Vattel

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The Turkish Embassy Letters

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Positive Diplomacy

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Multistakeholder diplomacy at the OECD

In his paper John West outlines multistakeholder diplomacy at the OECD. West first explores the main points and facts of the OECD before going into the emergence of globalising stakeholder societies. Finally he gives his remarks on multistakeholder diplomacy at the OECD.

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Diplomatic Security under a Comparative Lens – Or Not?

“Diplomatic security” is the term now usually preferred to “diplomatic protection” for the steps taken by states to safeguard the fabric of their diplomatic and consular missions, the lives of their diplomatic and consular officers, and the integrity of their communications; it has the advantage of avoiding confusion with the controversial legal doctrine of diplomatic protection.

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British Diplomacy and the Descent into Chaos: The career of Jack Garnett, 1902-19

I am in favour of biographies of relatively obscure individuals like Jack Garnett because there are plenty of them on the famous; moreover, studies of this kind often turn up interesting details (including how the famous were seen from the foothills) and stimulate thought on bigger questions. John Fisher’s well written and thoroughly researched study of this early twentieth century British diplomat, into which contextual detail is expertly woven, is no exception.

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Inside the U.S. Embassy: How the Foreign Service Works for America

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The Work of Diplomacy

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Applying the pedagogy of positiveness to diplomatic communication

Part of Language and Diplomacy (2001): Dr Francisco Gomes de Matos applies what he calls the "Pedagogy of Positiveness" to diplomatic communication. He proposes a checklist of tips for diplomats to make their communication more positive, emphasising respect and understanding of the other side, and keeping in mind the ultimate goal of avoiding conflict.

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The Rise of Modern Diplomacy, 1450-1919

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The Diplomats, 1919-1939

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Born a Foreigner: A Memoir of the American Presence in Asia

This is the eighth volume in the ADST-DACOR Diplomats and Diplomacy Series, and is a very solid addition to it. Cross, who was born of missionary parents in Beijing, spent 32 years in the US Foreign Service, and though his tours abroad included Egypt, Cyprus and London, most were in Asia and it is on these which this memoir concentrates.

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Mediation in International Relations

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FDR’s Ambassadors and the Diplomacy of Crisis: From the rise of Hitler to the end of World War II

What effect did personality and circumstance have on US foreign policy during World War II? This incisive account of US envoys residing in the major belligerent countries – Japan, Germany, Italy, China, France, Great Britain, USSR – highlights the fascinating role played by such diplomats as Joseph Grew, William Dodd, William Bullitt, Joseph Kennedy and W. Averell Harriman. Between Hitler's 1933 ascent to power and the 1945 bombing of Nagasaki, US ambassadors sculpted formal policy – occasionally deliberately, other times inadvertently – giving shape and meaning not always intended by ...

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Diplomats as cultural bridge builders

Diplomats are people who are on the fringe somewhere, because they are either permanently living in or at least dealing with alien cultures, cultures with different values. The success of a diplomat depends on this brinkmanship because, on the one hand, they must remain credible with their superiors back home and, on the other hand, they must have access to the leaders in the country where they are posted. This paper discusses the role of diplomats as cultural bridge-builders.

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Persuasion, trust, and personal credibility

Ambassador Kishan Rana indicates the cultivation of relations and the credibility of diplomats as the basis for persuasion in diplomacy. He provides an initial taxonomy of the type of relations that diplomats should cultivate. When it comes to credibility, Ambassador Rana presents the main ways of developing and maintaining credibility in diplomatic relations. The more credible the diplomat, the more likely it is that their persuasion with local interlocutors will be successful.

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The British Diplomatic Service 1815-1914

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Diplomacy under a Foreign Flag: When nations break relations

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Lessons from two fields

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Diplomats on Twitter: The good, the bad and the ugly

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I’ll be with you in a Minute Mr. Ambassador: The Education of a canadian Diplomat in Washington

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Renaissance Diplomacy and the Reformation

We invite you to continue our walk along timeline of Evolution of diplomacy and technology. In May, our next stop is Renaissance diplomacy and the impact of the invention of the printing press on diplomacy in the Reformation period.

Diplomatic security and the birth of the compound system

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Embassies under Siege

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Leaders’ rhetoric and preventive diplomacy – issues we are ignorant about

In this paper, Drazen Pehar analyses the argumentation made by George Lakoff of the University of California at Berkeley in his seminal paper on ‘Metaphor and War’, in which he tried to deconstruct the rhetoric U.S. president George Bush used to justify the war in the Gulf. He also analyses a reading by psycho-historian Lloyd deMause, whose theory differs from Lakoff’s. Throughout his analysis, Pehar describes the role of rhetoric in diplomatic prevention of armed conflicts, and its several functions, and concludes that the methods of preventive diplomacy depend heavily on the theory of...

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The Professional Diplomat

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International Encyclopedia Of Public Policy And Administration

Public administration - the implementation side of government - is becoming an increasingly international discipline.

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Bilateral Diplomacy: A Practitioner Perspective (Briefing Paper #15)

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Guerrilla Diplomacy: Rethinking International Relations

In a previous book review for DiploFoundation, Petru Dumitriu described G. R. Berridge’s Diplomacy: Theory and Practice as 'a Robinson Crusoe’s book on diplomacy'. Suppose one is left on a deserted island and allowed only one book to study diplomacy; in that case, Dumitriu recommends Diplomacy: Theory and Practice. Without doubt, I wholeheartedly support this recommendation.

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Innovation in Diplomatic Practice

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Inside Diplomacy

This is a book on diplomacy in general and the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) in particular. It is also a gem, and a large gem. It breathes life, wisdom, and good humour, and is full of rich detail. I found it thoroughly absorbing. Students of diplomacy at all stages of their careers will find it immensely useful, while those in a position to influence the future shape of the IFS will discover a whole raft of constructive suggestions for reform fearlessly advanced.

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The Ambassadors and America’s Soviet Policy

The inertia of Diplomacy

Diplomacy is used to manage the goals of foreign policy focusing on communication. New trends affect the institution of diplomacy in different ways. Diplomacy has received an additional tool in the form of the Internet. In various cases of interdependence and dependence interference in a country’s affairs is accepted. Multilateral cooperation has created parliamentary diplomacy and a new type of diplomat, the international civil servant. States and their diplomats are in demand to curb the excesses of globalization. The fight against terrorism also brought additional work for diplomac...

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DiploDialogue – Metaphors for Diplomats

On Diplo’s blog, in Diplo’s classrooms, and at Diplo’s events, dialogues stretch over a series of entries, comments, and exchanges and may even linger. DiploDialogue summarises. It’s like in sports events: DiploDialogue aims to bring focus by deleting what, in hindsight, is less relevant. In this first DiploDialogue, Katharina Höne and Aldo Matteucci discuss the usefulness of analogies and metaphors for understanding international relations and diplomacy.

The Limits of Neorealism

The Limits of Neorealism

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Diplomacy: Theory and Practice

Let us suppose that you are left, like Robinson Crusoe, on a deserted island, under instructions to learn about diplomacy. To that elevated purpose you would be allowed to keep one book only, the rest of the luggage consisting of things more essential for your physical survival, like a gun and gunpowder. The choice of that particular book may not be that difficult, if you had at hand the third edition of Diplomacy: Theory and Practice by G.R. Berridge.

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“Control yourself, Sir!”: A call for research into emotion cultures in diplomacy

This essay examines and seeks to explode the notion that diplomats are, or should be, immune to emotion in the conduct of their duties. It also discusses the concept of emotion cultures - cultural rules governing the experience and expression of emotion and suggests the possibility that modern diplomacy, perhaps a distinctive culture in itself, encourages the socialisation of diplomats into a distinctive, ostensibly global diplomatic emotion culture.

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The Diplomatic Corps as an Institution of International Society

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The Beijing-Washington Back-Channel and Henry Kissinger’s Secret Trip to China

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Who needs diplomats? The problem of diplomatic representation

This paper discusses the problem of diplomatic representation. Diplomats should remind themselves and others that they are first and foremost the representatives of sovereign states, that this is their raison d’être and a precondition for anything else they might aspire to be or to do. This might require an adjustment in their professional orientation but not a transformation.

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To joke or not to joke: A diplomatic dilemma in the age of internet

Part of Language and Diplomacy (2001): The first paper, presented by Prof. Peter Serracino-Inglott as the keynote address at the 2001 conference, examines the serious issue of diplomatic communication in a playful manner, through one of the most paradigmatic and creative examples of language use: joking.

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Under the Wire: How the Telegraph Changed Diplomacy

Review by Geoff Berridge

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Brian Barder’s Diplomatic Diary

Sir Brian Barder, the senior British diplomat and author of the always sage and sometimes gripping What Diplomats Do, died in 2017 but, courtesy of the professional editorial hand of his daughter Louise, has left us another treat. This is what he called a diary and which for the most part has the form of a diary (dated daily entries), although originally it was a series of letters sent to friends from foreign parts. Compared to diplomatic memoirs, diplomatic diaries are a rarity. And since this one is the product of an acute observer who loved the English language and used it in a vigorous and...

Diplomacy and domestic politics: The logic of two-level games

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All Fall Down: America’s fateful encounter with Iran

All Fall Down is the definitive chronicle of Americas experience with the Iranian revolution and the hostage crisis of 1978-81. Drawing on internal government documents, it recounts the controversies, decisions and uncertainties that made this a unique chapter in modern American history. From his personal experiences, the author draws revealing portraits of the people who engaged in this test of wills with an Islamic revolutionary regime.

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DC Confidential: The controversial memoirs of Britain’s ambassador to the U.S. at the time of 9/11 and the Iraq War

The publication of these memoirs in autumn 2005 caused a public furore in Britain so I shall not waste time giving any background on Sir Christopher Meyer. (Just punch his name into Google, which will enable you in the blink of an eye even to find out from the BBC website which records he chose when he appeared on Desert Island Discs.)

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Twentieth-Century Diplomacy: A Case Study of British Practice, 1963-1976

Some years ago, John Young, Professor of International History at the University of Nottingham and long-serving Chair of the British International History Group, turned his thoughts and research in the direction of diplomatic procedure. This is the first monograph to be the product of his shift in direction and it is to be most warmly welcomed. It is original in focus, impeccably researched (private papers and oral history transcripts have been sifted as well official documents in The National Archives), crisply written, and altogether a major contribution to the contemporary history of diplom...

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Texts in diplomacy

Part of Language and Diplomacy (2001): Professor Dietrich Kappeler provides an overview of the various types of formal written documents used in diplomacy, pointing out where the practices surrounding these documents have changed in recent years. He also discusses multi-language treaties, including the difficulties of translation and interpretation.

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The Consular Dimension of Diplomacy

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Why Persuasion? Reflections after 50 years of practising, teaching and studying diplomacy

From the faraway days when representatives of fighting tribes tried to arrange for a truce, thereby risking their head, to the often derided endless discussions within present day international frameworks, the common aim of diplomacy has remained persuasion. The better a diplomat is at persuading, the more successful he will be in furthering the cause he represents.

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Diplomacy for a Crowded World

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A weak diplomatic hybrid: U.S. Special Mission Benghazi, 2011-12

In the widespread coverage of the brutal murder of US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and others in the US mission in Benghazi on 11 September 2012, there has been much confusion over the character of the post. It has been repeatedly described in the media as the American ‘consulate’ but the official position, recently stated emphatically by the Report of the Accountability Review Board for Benghazi (ARB) convened by secretary of state Hillary Clinton, is that ‘the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi was never a consulate and never formally notified [in any character] to the Libyan ...

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Diplomacy and Journalism in the Victorian era: Charles Dickens, the Roving Englishman and the “white gloved cousinocracy”

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Pragmatics in diplomatic exchanges

Part of Language and Diplomacy (2001): Edmond Pascual interprets diplomatic communication with the linguistic tools of pragmatics. He begins by reminding us that while the diplomat is a "man of action," the particular nature of the diplomat's action is that it consists of speech. Pascual applies three concepts of pragmatics to diplomatic discourse: speech as an intentional act; the effects of the act of speech; and the role of the unsaid in the act of speech.

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How do you know what you think you know?

In his paper, J. Thomas Converse focuses on four records-related areas where the issues of knowledge management and diplomacy come together and provide the greatest challenges to archivists, diplomats, historians and technology providers: validation, trustworthiness, context and longevity. He also explores some of the changes and challenges brought about by technology, and urges for a continued embrace of technology, while at the same time demanding the validating and relational functions which give archives their trustworthiness.

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Routledge Handbook of Public Diplomacy

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Diplomacy: The world of the honest spy

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Theatre of Power: The Art of Signaling

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The Practice of Diplomacy: Its evolution, theory and administration

First published in 1995, the long-awaited second edition of this valuable textbook on the history of diplomacy has at last appeared. The first chapter has been expanded to include non-European traditions, and a wholly new chapter has been added to take account of developments over the last 15 years. It is for the main part a work of relaxed authority, clearly written, and – unusually for an introductory work – full of intriguing detail which it would be difficult if not impossible to find in other secondary sources.

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Switzerland’s good offices: a changing concept, 1945-2002

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Diplomacy: Theory and Practice, 4th ed

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Diplomacy for the New Century

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Diplomacy and Global Governance: The Diplomatic Service in an Age of Worldwide Interdependence

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Getting Our Way: 500 Years of Adventure and Intrigue: The Inside Story of British Diplomacy

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Persuasion in sociology of diplomacy

Dr Milan Jazbec, a practitioner and researcher in diplomacy, positions a discussion on persuasion in the sociology of diplomacy. Social context determines both diplomacy and persuasion. Dr Jazbec makes a distinction between pressure and persuasion. In a rather counter-intuitive view to dominant discourse, he argues that genuine persuasion cannot be public. As soon as it becomes public, it immediately becomes pressure.

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Just a Diplomat

Close students of the new, Conservative Party Mayor of London, the at once engaging and alarming Boris Johnson, will know that he has Turkish cousins. One of these is Sinan Kuneralp, a son of the late Zeki Kuneralp, probably the most distinguished and well liked Turkish diplomat of his generation. Sinan Kuneralp is a scholar-publisher and runs The Isis Press in Istanbul, a house at the forefront of publishing scholarly works and original documents on the Ottoman Empire, chiefly in English and French. The three works noticed here are all its products and reflect the publisher’s own special in...

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Chinese Ambassadors: The rise of diplomatic professionalism since 1945

Xiaohong worked on Western European affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing from 1977 until 1989. At some point after this she entered the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in the United States, and in 1997 was awarded a Ph.D. This book is her doctoral thesis, and - on the whole - a very good one it is. Chinese Ambassadors is based on many interviews with former diplomats and a variety of Chinese primary sources (including memoirs), and is clear, well organized, and - in its main thrust - tightly argued. As a result, it offers a rare insight int...

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International Regimes

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Multi-Track Diplomacy: A systems approach to peace

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The Cinderella Service: British Consuls since 1825

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Reforming Diplomacy: Clear Choices, New Emphases

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Diplomacy, Satire and the Victorians

This book, which rests on extensive use of private papers, official documents, press archives and not least Grenville-Murray’s vast output (including novels), is the first biography of this complex man to be written. It begins with the difficulties produced by his illegitimate birth, and then describes his patronage by Lord Palmerston and Charles Dickens, his colourful diplomatic career, and finally his blossoming as a successful writer in France in the 1870s

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Diplomacy: Theory and Practice, 3rd edn

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Embassies and Foreign Courts

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Ever the Diplomat

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Twentieth Century Diplomacy: A case study of British practice, 1963-1976

Book review by Geoff Berridge What is so original about the book is that the author has asked himself: What are the major forms of diplomatic contact? And followed this with the question: How and to what effect were they each employed by one state over a period sufficiently short to make detailed research possible […]

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Public diplomacy: Taxonomies and histories

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The Diplomats, 1939-1979

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Statecraft

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Language, signaling and diplomacy

Part of Language and Diplomacy (2001): Ambassador Kishan Rana introduces the dimension of diplomatic signalling. Beginning with a reference to the Bhagwad Gita, one of the sacred texts of the Hindus, Rana outlines the qualities of good diplomatic dialogue: not causing distress to the listener, precision and good use of language, and truthfulness.

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The impact of the Internet on diplomatic reporting: how diplomacy training needs to be adjusted to keep pace

Over the last 20 years, the Internet has changed the ways in which we work, how we socialise and network, and how we interact with knowledge and information.

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Instruzione e formazione del diplomatico: la tradizione inglese

Preventive Diplomacy in Southeast Asia: Redefining the ASEAN Way

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Last Man Standing: Memoirs of a political survivor

Jack Straw was the ablest and wisest of Tony Blair’s foreign secretaries and served in this capacity from 2001 until he was ungratefully dumped without warning by his leader in 2006. Afterwards he hit the headlines by courageously publishing his dislike of the full veil worn my some Muslim women, on the grounds that this was such a visible statement of separation and difference that it complicated community relations and was, in any case, a cultural preference rather than a religious obligation. (Straw was then and still is the Labour MP for a Bradford constituency with a large Muslim popula...

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Politics Among Nations

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The Evolution of Diplomatic Method

The School for Ambassadors

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The origins, use and development of hot line diplomacy

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The Nineteenth Century Foreign Office

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The New Diplomacy

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The Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Diplomacy

Book by Geoff Berridge

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The Summer Capitals of Europe, 1814-1919

This is an original work, meticulously researched, rich in detail, and written in a clear and – here and there – refreshingly pungent style. Soroka is a Russian scholar but at ease in English.

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Building relations through multi-dialogue formats: Trends in bilateral diplomacy

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A Diplomat in Siam (introduced and edited by Nigel Brailey)

Nigel Brailey, a University of Bristol historian who is well known to students of Sir Ernest Satow, is to be congratulated on bringing out a revised edition of this work, the fruit of Satow's period as British minister-resident in Bangkok from 1885 until 1888. It is the journal which Satow, later the author of the famous Guide to Diplomatic Practice, kept on his long boat journey from Bangkok to the northern city of Chiangmai and back again, which took from the beginning of December 1885 until the end of the following February.

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English Medieval Diplomacy

Diplomatic Persuasion: An Under-Investigated Process

The under-investigation in diplomatic studies of processes of persuasion in explaining diplomatic outcomes needs to be addressed in the interests of better scholarly explanations and diplomatic practice. Although such processes are implicit in nearly all concepts and practice of diplomacy, neither scholars nor practitioners explicitly investigate them. Yet other related fields of study and disciplines examine persuasion and demonstrate its explanatory value.

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True Brits: Inside the Foreign Office

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The idea of diplomatic culture and its sources

To what extent does an independent diplomatic culture exist which permits diplomats to exert their own influence on the conduct of international relations? Insofar as such a culture exists, what does it look like, is it a good thing and, if it is, how is it to be sustained? This paper explores what we generally mean when we talk about culture and how we see culture operating in contemporary international relations. It sketches the basic elements of a diplomatic culture and discusses different accounts of its origins.

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Bertie of Thame: Edwardian Ambassador

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Internet Guide for Diplomats

The Internet Guide for Diplomats is the first guide specifically conceived and realised to assist diplomats and others involved in international affairs to use the Internet in their work. The book includes both basic technical information about the Internet and specific issues related to the use of the Internet in diplomacy. Examples and illustrations address many common questions including web-management for diplomatic services, knowledge management and distance learning.

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Embassies in Armed Conflict

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Diplomat’s Dictionary

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Byzantium and Venice: A study in diplomatic and cultural relations

This book traces the diplomatic, cultural and commercial links between Constantinople and Venice from the foundation of the Venetian republic to the fall of the Byzantine Empire. It aims to show how, especially after the Fourth Crusade in 1204, the Venetians came to dominate first the Genoese and thereafter the whole Byzantine economy. At the same time the author points to those important cultural and, above all, political reasons why the relationship between the two states was always inherently unstable.

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Ellsworth Bunker: Global Troubleshooter, Vietnam Hawk

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Diplomacy with a Difference: The Commonwealth Office of High Commissioner, 1880-2006

Book review by Geoff Berridge

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Yes, (Saudi) Minister! A Life in Administration

After a brilliant ministerial career in Riyadh, Algosaibi fell from grace at the Ministry of Health in 1984. This was the start of his diplomatic life, which commenced in Bahrain and continued in London. This is a shrewd and lively book.

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British Envoys to Germany 1816-1866

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The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy

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Diplomats at War: British and Commonwealth diplomacy in wartime

In their Preface, the editors of Diplomats at War say that the two world wars in the twentieth century had a “catalytic impact upon the practice of diplomacy”; among other things, they continue, this produced “an unprecedented revolution” in the way heads of mission conducted their business.

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The Contemporary Embassy: Paths to Diplomatic Excellence

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21st Century Diplomacy: A Practitioner’s Guide

In the 21st century, new kinds of challenges resulting from interdependence among states and globalisation have had a determining impact of the conduct of diplomacy. Diplomacy has become multifaceted, pluri-directional, volatile and intensive, due to the increased complexity in terms of actors, dialogues subjects, modes of communication, and plurality of objectives. This unique text, written by a leading scholar and Foreign Service expert, examines all such factors to provide the definitive guide to diplomacy as it is practiced today. With a multitude of examples from around the world, includi...

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Cursed is the Peacemaker: The American Diplomat [Philip Habib] Versus the Israeli General, Beirut 1982

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Diplomatic Theory from Machiavelli to Kissinger

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The Practice of Diplomacy, 2nd ed

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Backstabbing for Beginners: My Crash Course in International Diplomacy

On 21 April 2004, the Security Council adopted resolution 1538(2004), the most embarrassing resolution in the history of the United Nations. The resolution appointed an independent high-level inquiry whose mandate was to 'collect and examine information relating to the administration and management of the Oil-for-Food Programme, including allegations of fraud and corruption on the part of United Nations officials, personnel and agents, as well as contractors, including entities that have entered into contracts with the United Nations or with Iraq under the Programme.'

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Essence of Diplomacy

Christer Jönsson is Professor of Political Science at Lund University in Sweden, where Martin Hall is a Researcher. Their book is described as an exercise in ‘theorizing’ diplomacy, that is, an attempt to provide a general account of its causes and consequences. (The authors are thus severe in denying the title of ‘theory’ to the ‘prescriptive tracts’ which scholar-diplomats have written about their art over hundreds of years, though I notice that they are more indulgent to the use of the term ‘political theory’ as in, for example, ‘liberal political theory’.)

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Reflections on multistakeholder diplomacy

Through analysis of the procedural and institutional arrangements in the functioning of international bodies, Valentin Katrandjiev, seeks to measure the extent to which diplomats accept nonofficial networks and entities as equal partners in the diplomatic negotiation process. Katrandjiev analyses the trend that on the domestic front, societies demand greater public accountability of governments in the process of national foreign policy making. He attempts to do so through the organisational units in MFAs responsible for relationships with domestic stakeholders.

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Blundering Into Disaster: Surviving the First Century of the Nuclear Age

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Diplomatic Notebooks 1, 1958-1960: The view from Ankara

Zeki Kuneralp (1914-1998) was one of Turkey’s most gifted, well-liked and influential diplomats of the second half of the twentieth century. This book, dispassionately edited, introduced and annotated by his son, the scholar-publisher Sinan Kuneralp, is the first of a promised series of six volumes. Beginning in January 1958 and ending in August 1960, when Zeki Kuneralp became ambassador to Switzerland, it covers all but the first seven or eight months of the period when he was assistant secretary-general for political affairs in the Turkish foreign ministry in Ankara (in May 1960 he was ele...

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Getting to the Table: The Process of International Prenegotiation

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A Dictionary of Diplomacy

Like all professions, diplomacy has spawned its own specialized terminology, and it is this lexicon which provides A Dictionary of Diplomacy's thematic spine. However, the dictionary also includes entries on legal terms, political events, international organizations and major figures who have occupied the diplomatic scene or have written influentially about it over the last half millennium. All students of diplomacy and related subjects and especially junior members of the many diplomatic services of the world will find this book indispensable.

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A Selection of New diplomatic memoirs

I have just written a review article on these six books of British diplomatic memoirs for the English Historical Journal, so here I shall just provide some notes on those that I believe to be most valuable to students of diplomacy.

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Diplomacy: Theory and Practice, Fifth Edition

In 2005, I reviewed the third edition of Diplomacy: Theory and Practice by G.R. Berridge as essential reading for Robinson Crusoe, had he been a student of diplomacy. We all know that eventually Crusoe ended his assignment on the foreign island and returned to his native country where he found himself a wealthy man for whom bibliography no longer had a role to play … unlike the rest of us, who have continued to practise diplomacy and read books about it.

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Lucky George: Memoirs of an Anti-Politician

This is a belated and less than comprehensive note on this book, which I stumbled upon in a second-hand bookshop while on holiday. It is one of the most lively, shrewd, and brilliantly written diplomatic and political memoirs that I have ever come across.

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Inside Diplomacy

This is a book on diplomacy in general and the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) in particular. It is also a gem, and a large gem. It breathes life, wisdom, and good humour, and is full of rich detail. I found it thoroughly absorbing. Students of diplomacy at all stages of their careers will find it immensely useful, while those in a position to influence the future shape of the IFS will discover a whole raft of constructive suggestions for reform fearlessly advanced.

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Diplomatic culture and its domestic context

Is there a specific, distinctive diplomatic culture? Given the fact that the conduct of diplomacy is regulated by international law and by custom, and since the structures through which states conduct their external relations, both bilateral and multilateral, are standardized, it is fair to say that both the institutions and the process form a pattern of their own, unique to this profession. The professional diplomatist actors on the international stage, and their institutions, display certain shared characteristics.

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The Blair Years: Extracts from the Alastair Campbell Diaries

Reveiw by Geoff Berridge

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The Queen’s Ambassador to the Sultan: Memoirs of Sir Henry A. Layard’s Constantinople Embassy, 1877-1880

Once more students of Ottoman diplomatic history are in debt to the scholar-publisher, Sinan Kuneralp, for Sir Henry Layard was one of the most remarkable and controversial of British ambassadors to Turkey in the nineteenth century and served there during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-8 – and yet the volumes of his memoirs dealing with this period have hitherto languished unpublished in the British Library, in part perhaps because of their size. (Layard admits himself to having been ‘somewhat minute, perhaps a great deal too much so’, p. 692.)They are here published almost in their entir...

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The Craft of Diplomacy: How to Run a Diplomatic Service

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In Confidence: Moscow’s Ambassador to Six Cold War Presidents

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Diplomacy: Theory and Practice, 2nd edn

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Managing the Cold War: A view from the front line

Michael Alexander, a Russian-speaking senior British diplomat who died in 2002, was a major behind-the-scenes figure in what he calls the ‘management’ of the cold war to a peaceful conclusion.