The conduct and practice of diplomacy during the reign of Edward IV (1461-1483)
Meek, Edward Lewis
University of Cambridge
Faculty of History
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Meek, E. L. (2001). The conduct and practice of diplomacy during the reign of Edward IV (1461-1483) (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.39805
The purpose of this dissertation is to explore how English diplomacy was conducted during the reign of Edward IV (1461-1483), by examining the personnel of Yorkist diplomacy (including ambassadors, agents, spies and messengers) and by studying the structure of the diplomatic polity. The practice of English diplomacy during the later Middle Ages has been much neglected by historians, whose work has mainly concentrated on the period after 1500. In the first decade of the sixteenth century, Henry VII became the first English king to employ resident ambassadors at foreign courts and it has been commonly suggested that efficient diplomatic contact with other states was a product of Henry VII's changes in diplomatic practice. Consequently, it has also been claimed that earlier diplomatic methods provided only clumsy and haphazard diplomatic contact with other powers, and limited opportunities for intelligence-gathering. However, it is the contention of this dissertation that prevailing notions of diplomacy during the later Middle Ages are in clear need of revision. The first chapter of the dissertation is an assessment of the practical implications of the complicated legal principles and theory advocated by the authors of medieval tracts on diplomacy. The activities and responsibilities of Edward IV's diplomats (whether fully-empowered ambassadors or minor agents) are then discussed in chapters two and three. It will be argued that the common depiction of the temporary embassy as an inflexible means of diplomatic contact is inaccurate, since Edward IV's ambassadors had considerable freedom to act upon their own initiative and embarked upon informal negotiations without formal powers authorising them to do so. Moreover, diplomatic personnel of a lower status played a far more important role in late medieval diplomatic practice than most historians have allowed. Calais, England's last territorial possession in France, was a crucial (and neglected) part of the late medieval diplomatic polity. Hence, the king's governor of the town could exercise significant diplomatic influence. Indeed, during the 1460s the captaincy of Calais enabled the earl of Warwick to pursue a foreign policy almost independently of the king (the subject of chapter four). The general diplomatic duties of the king's officers at Calais, and the use of that town as a convenient site for diplomatic conferences and the logistical organisation of diplomacy, will be discussed in chapter five. The effectiveness of the late medieval information and intelligence gathering network is assessed in chapter six of the dissertation.
Digitisation of this thesis was sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.39805
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