The discreet charm of the diplomatic archive

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This article offers a series of personal reflections on the value of diplomatic sources for researching several types of history, and urges early modernists to consider the many uses to which such documentation can be put. It evaluates the richness of interactions between diplomatic history on the one hand, and social and cultural history on the other, and examines the significant contributions the 'new diplomatic history' has made in challenging conventional periodizations, expanding the reach of diplomatic history outside its usual Western home, and fruitfully complicating the idea of what diplomacy is and who is affected by it. A range of specific examples drawn from work in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century German and other European archives illustrates the many scholarly advantages diplomatic sources present. The article considers in depth the types of documents available, the ways to access them, and the tools necessary for exploiting them. It explores how scholar can - and should - use diplomatic sources to write several different kinds of histories, including histories of economic life, social relationships, cultural practices, and medicine, to list just a few.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)283-304
Number of pages22
JournalGerman History
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2011


  • archives
  • diplomatic history
  • early modern history
  • methodology
  • sources

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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