The word diplomacy originated from the Greek verb “Diploun” which means to fold. It later evolved into a diploma in the Roman Empire.

The word implies a less metallic official document, especially those conferring privileges or embodying arrangements with foreign communities or tribes.”

The term diploma comprises two words ‘Diplo’ means folded in two and ‘ma’ means an object. Over the period of time, the importance of the diploma grew so much that it was used as a traveling document by the royals.

Diplomas eventually took the place of official documents signifying international agreements and evolved in international relations.

Diplomacy gradually and slowly emerged as the finest art and way of communication, documentation, and interaction within and outside the countries to maintain healthy prosperous, and yet intimate relations between groups, individuals, and nations.

The intent of doing so was to help solve the differences within and outside of the political infrastructure to create an atmosphere of healthy competition and awareness which can reduce tensions among the nations and could lower conflict and animosity.

Origin of Diplomacy

While considering the origin of diplomacy, the earlier experts thought of it as a mechanism to convey messages between people and societies.

Early diplomacy was conferred in Medieval Europe and it was considered that the angels and messengers were the first diplomats, as diplomacy does relate to predate recorded history.

Who is a Diplomat?

Historically speaking, a diplomat is considered a person who has the art of connectivity of bringing people together in undefined and difficult situations.

Unlike modern diplomacy, the main characteristics of ancient Greek diplomacy were public negotiation and also treaties ratifications by exchanging solemnized public oaths.

In the 18th century, the French termed a diplomate as a person given the authority to negotiate on behalf of the state, and corps diplomatique referred to officials involved in foreign policy.

In 1796 the term diplomacy was formally introduced into English by Edmund Burke who was an Anglo-Irish statesman, economist, and philosopher.

Primitive Societies

Primitive societies had some attribution of state and international diplomacy can relate its origin from the inter-tribal relations. Tribes do have negotiations regarding trade, marriage, hunting, or other issues related to their survival of existence.

Diplomacy in Primitive Societies
Diplomacy in Primitive Societies. Image Source: Media Storehouse

Amazingly it was registered that women played a significant role as envoys to act as messengers in primitive societies.

Preliminary Diplomacy

Preliminary diplomacy can be traced back to the 14th century in Egypt but the real knowledge of diplomacy comes from the Middle East, China, India, and the Mediterranean.

A diplomatic correspondence existed between the Egyptian court and the Hittite king in the 14th century BCE where it was recorded to have full-text treaties in Akkadian languages which belong to none of them.

Hittites were Indo-Europeans, belonging to the so-called Anatolian branch of the Indo-European language family. While Akkadian was named after the city of Akkad in northern Babylonia.

It was the most important language spoken and written in the ancient Near East between the third and first millennia BCE.

Preliminary diplomacy was recorded in the 7th century by evidence where in Bible diplomatic relations between the Jewish tribes within and outside people were clearly mentioned.

Preliminary diplomacy can be traced back to the 14th century
Preliminary diplomacy can be traced back to the 14th century. Image Source: Harvard International Review
Diplomacy in China

By the 8th century, the Chinese had established their leagues, and missions in order to create diplomatic ties with their warring states. They emphasized the virtues of morality between the states, well described in the Chinese classics.

This tradition of mutual respect and morality though ended by the Qin Emperor by unifying the states in 221 BCE, and the unity of the Han dynasty in 206 BCE.

Under these dynasties, China emerged as the most advanced and technologically skillful best governed, and advanced country in the world. Chinese had a slogan for a moral society that convinced foreigners to visit China to learn.

Diplomacy in China
China emphasized the virtues of morality
Greek Diplomacy

Greeks were the ones who developed archives and diplomatic vocabulary, principles of international conduct and anticipated international law, and many other tools of modern diplomacy.

Rome inherited what was devised by the Greeks and adapted it for their imperial administration. However, as Rome expanded, it maintained negotiations tied with the representatives of the conquered areas.

They did so in order to enjoy the partial self-government in the form of a treaty. Although, many treaties were signed under the Greek international law.

Greeks were the one who developed archives and diplomatic vocabulary
Greeks were the ones who developed archives and diplomatic vocabulary
Diplomacy in India 

India was home to equally sophisticated traditions which were systematized in a ruthless way of establishing foreign relations according to their personal interest rather than keeping the spirit of ethical morality intact.

India had very little interaction and political connectivity with the other regions of the world until Alexander the Great conquered its northern regions in 326 BCE.

Although India designed and established its diplomatic interactions revolving around its ruthless vested interest in unethical morality, still it was ruled by graded state power codified in Artha-Shastra with respect to five factors.

Artha-Shastra by Chanakya is one of the oldest books in secular Sanskrit literature. The five factors emphasized espionage, diplomatic maneuver, and contentions by 12 categories of states encircled in a jigsaw puzzle of the geopolitical matrix, with powers distributed in statecraft.

These were influenced by conciliation, seduction, subversion, and coercion with a state policy compromising on war, peace, non-alignment, alliance, a show of power, and double-dealing.

Indian diplomatic interactions revolved around Artha-Shastra by Chanakya
Indian diplomatic interactions revolved around Artha-Shastra by Chanakya. Source: Modern Diplomacy

After Alexander the Great conquered the northern state, the native Mauryan empire ushered in a new era in Indian diplomatic history.

This new era helped extend and promote the religious doctrine of Buddhism exerting and building political pressure beyond South Asia.

Asoka, the Mauryan Emperor remained quite active in sending Brahmin Missionaries to West, Central, and Southeast Asia till the ascendency of the Rajput Kingdom followed by the traditions and diplomatic reasoning replaced by the Muslim and British conquerors.

Diplomacy in Islam

In the 7th century, followers of Islam in Arabia conquered significant territory first from Byzantium, and in north African provinces, The Arabs and Persians were then united ultimately uniting the Turk and Central Asian people.

The community of Islam aspired to be a single human society in which secular institutions such as the state has no significant role, where it was believed in a political interaction without any need for diplomatic missions between the rulers.

Although there used to be diplomatic exchanges that occurred from time to time, their duration would be very short & temporary.

However, diplomatic missions both to Muslim and non-Muslim countries were initiated from the time of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, the last Prophet of Islam.

This was when the Muslim community started their correspondence with the other then-contemporary rulers.

This was considered a time of transition from the pre-Islamic era of ignorance to an enlightened world of governance and guidance as well as the elaboration of Islamic jurisprudence.

The community of Islam aspires to be a single human society
The community of Islam aspires to be a single human society

Early Islamic rulers and jurists developed an elaborate set of protections and rules to help facilitate the exchange of emissaries.

Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was initially considered a religious leader but time proved his great leadership qualities and abilities of diplomacy by bringing people of different tribes together by establishing the constitution of Madina which showed his political and diplomatic supremacy.

He showed his refined technique of diplomacy in the pledges of Al-Aqabah, the constitution of Madina, and the treaty of Hudaybiyyah, where he reportedly used a silver seal on letters sent to other dignitaries.

Modern Diplomacy and its Intricacies

Modern diplomatic practices are a product of the post-renaissance European system. Renaissance meaning rebirth was a period of European civilization from the late 14th to the early 17th century.

Renaissance diplomacy appeared among Italians in the 15th century which is considered the beginning of modern diplomacy. Renaissance diplomacy was built on two characteristics;

  • Lack of hegemonic power
  • A strong interest in solving problems, conflicts, and differences through peaceful negotiations.

In diplomatic history, the first permanent diplomatic mission was established in 1450 representing the Duke of Milan to Cosimo de Medici of Florence. Initially, Italian diplomacy was driven commercially by bankers and traders.

However, the main task of the resident Ambassador was to gather information & develop relationships in order to become crucial intelligence gatherers who would mostly seek information about the arrivals of cargo, the situation in the court, military preparation, and political gossip.

Whereas modern diplomacy with the new technologies of information and approachability does give way to different modes to access the ways and methods in its conduction of communication, negotiation, intelligence, image management, and policy implementation.

Nevertheless, the basic rules and laws will always revolve around the environmental intelligence of humans.

Diplomacy builds and trends the ways of coalition that can deter conflict or war
Diplomacy builds and trends the ways of the coalition that can deter conflict or war. Image Source: Modern Diplomacy
Political Agenda of Diplomacy

The political agenda of diplomacy lies in the security of the national interests of the countries and the ways to secure an intelligently designed strategy to build peaceful and negotiable relations with the rest of the world.

Diplomatic activities always try to patronize themselves in a way that they could maximize a group’s or nation’s interest without the risk of conflict and using force essentially how to eliminate resentment while one is adhering to diplomatic engagements.

Diplomacy builds and trends the ways of a coalition that can deter conflict or war. Diplomacy always tends to make ways for a conducive international environment to have a non-violent resolution of disputes or conflicts.

This is achieved by cooperative deeds, transitions, agreements, and treaties to nurture an international bond of cooperation to make it a peaceful world of happening.