Diplomacy and Diplomats
- Iver B. NeumannIver B. NeumannMontague Burton Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics
The diplomat is formed in certain socially specific ways, and is defined by the role they play within certain contexts in the field of international relations. Since it is human beings, and not organizations, who practice diplomacy, the diplomats’ social traits are relevant to their work. Historically, diplomats can be defined in terms of two key social traits (class and gender) and how their roles depend on two contexts (bureaucrat/information gatherer and private/public). Before the rise of the state in Europe, envoys were usually monks. With the rise of the state, the aristocracy took over the diplomatic missions. Nonaristocrats were later allowed to assume the role of diplomats, but they needed to be trained, both as gentlemen and as diplomats. From the eighteenth century onwards, wives usually accompanied diplomats stationed abroad, though by the end of the nineteenth century, a few women came to work as typists and carry out menial chores for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). As women became legal persons through performing such labor, they later became qualified to legally serve as diplomats. Meanwhile, in terms of context, the key context change for a diplomat is from “at home” (as in “my home country”) to “abroad.” Historically, work at home is the descendant of bureaucratic service at the MFA, and work abroad of the diplomatic service.