Historical Treaties of Southeast Asia

Homepage of the blog of International Institute of Asian Studies
Homepage of the blog of International Institute of Asian Studies


Originating from an initiative at the third conference of the Global Diplomacy Network, Birgit Tremml-Werner and Lisa Hellman launched a blog series together International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS). Nowadays known as "The Blog", it has emerged as a popular guest blogging initiative hosted, maintained, and promoted by the IIAS.

The IIAS connects knowledge and people, contributing to a more integrated understanding of Asia today by focusing on relevant themes and issues together with scholars and practitioners throughout the world. The blog on Diplomacy in Southeast Asia is aimed at starting new conversations and sets the diplomacy of Southeast Asia in a broader context, and make it part of a global history debate on premodern diplomacy. Each post offers a comparative and collaborative rethinking from a number of scholars working in the field of Southeast Asian studies, several of them members of SEAT, and the topics span from the terminology of inter-state relations, to marriage patterns and indigenous agency. The conversations included in the blog posts are meant to be open-ended and seen as creative ways to rethink what diplomacy has been, and how it has been considered. To give an appetizer, Hans Hägerdal, Tristan Mostert and Matthew Mostart engage in a conversation about the connection between diplomacy and the circulation of knowledge. The history of diplomacy has always been intertwined with that of the access, interpretation and use of knowledge: those who functioned as diplomats or emissaries would spread and gather knowledge, and intelligence on foreign lands and technological advances could be used as hard currency in interstate relations, jealously guarded and cautiously traded. Lisa Hellman and Birgit Tremml-Werner ask the three historians whether their research revealed cases when the spheres of art, medicine, geography, legal information, or economic norms influenced diplomatic relations, or functioned as diplomatic currency. Hans Hägerdal explaines how the will to regulate colonial trade placed demands on military knowledge, while the power of stories was often as strong as solid forts. Tristan Mostert emphasizes that the circulation of knowledge was not a parallel process to that of diplomacy, but part of it. According to him, a great added bonus to conducting diplomacy with foreign powers was that it provided various ways of access to foreign knowledge and technology. Matthew Mosca ends this conversation with a dramatic turn: he turns our attention to the defeat of the Qing empire at the hands of the British empire in the first opium war. This famous historical shift became symbolic for the start of a new imperial era in the larger Sinosphere. It might be, however, that it has been understood all wrong: can a focus on information turn this story around?


Birgit Tremml-Werner

Birgit Tremml-Werner is a researcher at Linnaeus University and a member of the Historical Treaties of Southeast Asia research team.