Diplomatic networks / French European policy…

A quick one, in two parts:

. Kenneth Weisbrode put up a reformulated version of his open letter to SHAFR on our New Diplomatic History blog:


Money quote:

This is the root of the call now for a new diplomatic history. It is not meant to supplant the “old,” whatever that may be, or international history. It is really a subset of the latter, although diplomats—again, broadly speaking, include both official and unofficial actors and many others in between—may act inter- and transnationally, as well as nationalistically, all at once. The members of our network may differ on who is a diplomat. My own view emphasizes the functional or operational definition: the history of diplomats focuses on the people who perform diplomatic roles, which means anyone who imparts to himself or herself the role of intermediary for reasons beyond his or her own individual interests. They need not serve or represent states, although many do. They must, however, serve a set of interests, cause or collective unit above and beyond themselves, and which in some way involves the crossing of borders and the inter-relationship of political entities.

How does this differ from what most people now call international history? Or transnational history? These are even broader categories. International history relates to anything, animate or inanimate, that mediates (or fails to mediate) between two or more nations. Transnational history relates to anything that crosses a border or, as some would have it, transcends, or even transforms, a border into a borderland. The two differ from one another in that the former would appear to re-inscribe the nation-state, while the latter would diminish or overtake it. Both types of actions are possible in diplomatic history as I have described it. But unlike the other two categories, diplomatic history deals primarily with the human record.

On the same subject, I wanted to emphasize a paper by David Reynolds I recently found and intend to read. Reynolds draws a compelling portrait of International History’s evolutions lately, from the “cultural turn” to a newer “diplomatic twitch” he tries to document. I will come back to this.

. Second, I was on radio this morning to talk about France. EU-policy, Hollande’s style, reactions to the publication by Charlie Hebdo of Mahomet-caricatures, etc. Typically, I left home with plenty of notes and things to say; but when the red light switched on, it seemed impossible to make sense of anything.

Concerning France’s EU-policy, I wanted to draw everybody’s attention to two texts that seem to point to something I did not see in the beginning of the summer. When insisting on intergovernmental Europe, Sarkozy followed quite a lot the traditional French policy: Europe yes, but a Europe of nation-states. The new government seems to be as divided on the subject as the party it represents, but it looks now like Hollande would be ready to stray from this line much more than I thought he would be only a few months ago. While Jean Quatremer gives a few hints as to Hollande’s intentions, Mediapart (paywall; the relevant parts on Arthur Goldhammer’s blog) documents the divisions in the government. Food for thought; let’s see how things unfold before Christmas.

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