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[Call for papers] Diplomacy for migrants. The management and control of foreigners by diplomatic agents (16th-19th centuries)

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Submission deadline : 1st June 2018

Venue: Institut historique allemand Paris
Date: 12th-14th December 2018

This meeting, which forms part of the five-year programme organised by the École Française in Rome, Managing foreigners. Migrants, diplomats and hospitality, Italy - Europe (16th-mid 19th centuries), will take place at the German Historical Institute from the 12th to the 14th December 2018. It will attempt to address a still virtually unexplored aspect of diplomatic practice: the arrangements for the control and management of foreigners by officials posted in various European states between the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries. 

The focus of this meeting will be to examine the ways in which diplomats, in the broad sense, in conjunction with or independently of their consulates, involved themselves in supporting, permitting, or encouraging the movement and integration of “their” foreign nationals within the states in which they were operating. The wording here is deliberately ambiguous: the aim will be to identify all the individuals or groups who, regarded as foreigners within a particular country, enjoyed diplomatic protection; and to determine the nature and extent of this in different periods and places, and the reasons for it. The foreigners selected will not be limited to citizens of the ambassador’s country of origin: they could be individuals or communities that required protection for a whole variety of reasons – religious or political (in the cases of the exiled ‘protestants’ of the 16th-17th centuries and the ‘patriots’ of the late 18th and 19th centuries), diplomatic (in cases of wards of rulers or ‘allied’ states) or alternatively social, even personal (in the cases of those whose country of origin was the same as the ambassador’s – which may not, in fact, necessarily be the one which he was serving). 

Aside from these ‘legitimate’ foreign nationals who enjoyed diplomatic protection, the aim is also to determine to what extent ambassadors were able to intervene in an attempt to limit – even prevent – the integration of certain categories of ‘aliens’ in the states where they were posted: either because they were considered useful and therefore needed to be persuaded to remain in their country of origin so as to avoid a ‘brain drain’; or, on the other hand, because they were considered as ‘undesirables’ by the state represented by these officials – notably in the cases of those who were obliged to seek refuge outside their own countries for religious or political reasons. 

Based on the analysis and discussion of various works, the aim will be to shed light, throughout history, on the differing diplomatic approaches and dynamics involved in the management of foreign nationals, whether privileged or stigmatised. From this perspective, these two days could be organised along the following lines: 

  1. the first of these will focus on the ways in which various categories of migrants were registered, i.e. an examination of all the existing documents from diplomatic sources which relate to the selection and review of foreign nationals and which are rarely consulted today: the ‘lists’ and ‘tables’ drawn up by the chancelleries of embassies for the purposes of counting foreign nationals who were either settled or in transit through the countries under the ambassadors’ jurisdiction; the letters and notes of recommendation given to the ‘privileged few’ they either had in mind or with whom they were already acquainted; the ‘letters of safe conduct’ and ‘passports’ issued to foreign nationals for the purposes of travelling, visiting and residence for various periods of time. By doing so, the focus will be on the shift from selection being based on ‘social awareness or recognition’ to review being based on ‘individual identification’. The objective will therefore be to examine the reasons and contexts which induced diplomats to compile these reviews and issue or refuse these permits, whilst also shedding light on the various types of documentation found in the different administrative cultures specific to the various European chancelleries and embassies. 
  2. the second line of enquiry will address the ways in which ambassadors intervened with local authorities on behalf of or against certain communities (of nationals or foreign nationals). It will therefore examine the way in which diplomats attempted to obtain extensions, reductions and suspensions of the rights and privileges granted to individuals or to communities of foreign nationals, who were not necessarily natives of the countries they came from but who the former believed were entitled to a say or even intervention on their behalf. 

This diplomatic intervention on behalf of or against foreign nationals resulted in a process of negotiation, even lobbying – the targets of which need to be ascertained (parishes, ministries and administrations) – and adjustments (regarding the nature, the duration and the areas of privileges awarded or contested). It will also be necessary to demonstrate how this intervention was sometimes translated into a form of interference – particularly in legal matters – when an ambassador took up a case on behalf of or against certain accused persons, or else when he attempted to obtain the extradition of certain criminals who sought refuge abroad. Hence it will be necessary to demonstrate how politics and policy concerning foreign nationals was not only determined by European ministerial staff, but that it was also the result of negotiations with diplomats, and was based on the different types of status they claimed regarding foreign nationals: that of ‘protector’ (who could provide them with a ‘guarantee’, for example), ‘ally’ (within the context, for example, of the ‘Family Treaties’), or alternatively ‘friend’ (of patriots, nationals or exiles who adhered to the political principles of the states both represented and defended abroad by its diplomatic agents). 

Finally, particular attention will be drawn to the rhetorical and legal forms of justification used by ambassadors to defend or deny the ‘rights’ of their subjects and those of the foreigners they were attempting to protect or exclude. Which words were employed to categorise certain foreigners as being entitled to diplomatic protection and distinguish them from those who were not or for whom this was no longer the case? Which arguments were used to plead their case or, conversely, to delegitimise their presence? Lastly, which legal norms were called upon to justify these demands? Those that were found in public law (treaties), in natural law (the law of nations), or else those that were bound up with the friendships that existed between states, rulers and nations? This analysis of terminological and legal records should therefore make it possible to establish what defined, in practice, the famous ‘right to hospitality’, which was theorised about in all the treaties concerning the law of nations and constantly cited by diplomatic agents, but which tended to vary according to the interests, the areas and the periods under consideration. 

Thus by exploring the ways in which ambassadors were fully involved in the dynamics of the movements, integration and marginalisation of migrants, it becomes evident that diplomatic practices themselves therefore also contributed to the actual definition of these categories of ‘nationals’ and ‘aliens’. 


Proposals for presentations consisting of a synopsis (of around 500 words) and a short bio-bibliographical notice (5–10 lines) should be sent by e-mail to the planning committee at the following address: colloque.diplo.etranger.2018(at)gmail.com before Monday 14th May 2018. Presentations may be submitted in French or in English. 

Symposium organised by Naïma Ghermani (University of Grenoble UGA – LUHCIE), Virginie Martin (Paris 1 University – IHMC/IHRF) and Niels F. May (German Historical Institute Paris), in partnership with the École Française in Rome (EFR). 

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