History as diplomacy in early modern Europe: Emanuel van Meteren’s Historia Belgica and international relations, 1596–1640

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Abstract

The history of historiography has tended to disregard translations of early modern European vernacular histories. Whereas sixteenth- and seventeenth-century histories frequently circulated in various languages, scholarship has predominantly analysed them in national historiographical silos. This article argues that this practice has led us to underestimate the role vernacular histories could play in international relations. By analysing the case of Emanuel van Meteren’s history of the Dutch Revolt, which was translated, adapted, and reprinted in various European vernaculars, it aims to show how we might understand early modern history-writing as an aspect of diplomacy: a mode of writing and reporting that was deeply embedded in diplomatic culture and that aimed to shape, and was shaped by, international relations. To achieve this, the article 1) shows how Van Meteren’s historical work was an outcome of his trade in diplomatic intelligence and his position in diplomatic networks; 2) outlines the complicated international afterlife of his Dutch text; 3) analyses the book’s impact on international relations. All three aspects, it is suggested, are typical for the kind of annalistic history-writing Van Meteren practiced. His case might therefore serve as a model for further research into the role of history-writing in early modern (public) diplomacy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRenaissance Studies
Early online date2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 07 May 2021

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