Inter-University Centre Dubrovnik

An independent international centre for advanced studies

Media, Arts, Culture and History Media, Arts, Culture and History


Small States at the Diplomacy of the Early Modern Period
24 Sep 2021 - 25 Sep 2021
Conference directors:
Lovro Kunčević, Croatian Academy of Science and Arts, Croatia
Anna Kalinowska, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland
Conference description:

Clearly, there is no universally accepted definition of a “small state”, as “small” is quite an ambiguous concept. However, one possible approach would be to say that small states were those whose territory was significantly smaller than that of most other states, which often also implied limited military and/or political power. More precisely, one could say that small states were those whose lack of territory and resources caused them to usually negotiate from a position of weakness. This conference is dedicated to such “underdogs” of Early Modern diplomacy who were routinely forced to engage in asymmetrical diplomatic relations.

Within the context of this broad definition, some of the key issues the Splendid Encounters 9 Conference seeks to explore are:

  • defining a “small state”: the changing meanings of the concept both in Early Modern political discourse and in modern scholarship. Which were the criteria of considering a polity as a “small state” (territory, population, military power or something else) especially in diplomatic context?
  • small states' strengths and weaknesses as diplomatic players: were there any specific strengths of small states which were due exactly to their small size and resources? What were the reasons for diplomatic victories of small states over their larger counterparts?
  • struggle for sovereignty: ways in which small states sought to establish and legitimize their status as independent international subjects. Which strategies – ranging from political and legal treatises, ceremonies and symbols, all the way to alliances and warfare – did they employ in order to achieve the desired status and prestige?
  • dynamics of relations with great powers: specific diplomatic relations shaped by significant difference in territory and power between the two polities. Which were the forms of patronage and dependence between the small states and great empires (e.g. tribute, military aid, symbolic submission)?