Hamish Scott

in The Oxford Handbook of the Ancien Régime

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199291205
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History


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The era of the French Revolution, and specifically the later 1780s and 1790s, saw the modern meanings first of “diplomatic” and then “diplomacy” become established in the political lexicon. A century before, when the Maurist monk Jean Mabillon wrote De re diplomatica (1681), his masterpiece devoted to the science of documents and the historical method, the term still retained its traditional meaning: relating to the study of diplomas or other documents. At this period the peaceful conduct of relations between states was known as “negotiations” (négociations ), a term which long continued to be employed. During the later eighteenth century, however, the terms “diplomatic” and “diplomacy” took on their present-day meaning both in French and in English. The Irish political journalist and British MP, Edmund Burke, did most to make the word familiar to Anglophone readers. In the Annual Register for 1787 he wrote of “civil, diplomatique [sic] and military affairs,” while a decade later, in one of his celebrated Letters on a Regicide Peace, he spoke of the French regime's “double diplomacy.” By shortly after 1800, the term was becoming established.

Keywords: diplomacy; French Revolution; negotiations; inter-state relations; diplomats; double diplomacy

Article.  10104 words. 

Subjects: History ; International History

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