Splendid Encounters

The first occasion when most of our project could show themselves as a group was provided by the eleventh event of the conference series Splendid Encounters organised by Premodern Diplomats Network. The event entitled “Remapping Decisions: Governmental Decisions in Early Modern Diplomatic Relations between the Ottoman Empire and Europe” was held on 27 and 28 April 2023 at the Institute of Habsburg and Balkan Studies of the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna. We not only organized a panel offering insight into the topics in the focus of our attention, but several further project members presented papers, and one of the organisers, Zsuzsanna Cziráki is also a member of our project. See the program of the conference here.

In her paper, Zsuzsanna located the administrative framework of decision-making concerning Habsburg Ottoman policy in the Aulic War Council. She presented a concise overview of the issues which the Habsburg diplomatic machinery categorized as eastern issues, such as Hungarian and Transylvanian, and even Tartar and Persian affairs. She argued that the dynasty’s interests went far beyond matters related to the Ottoman Empire and also included parts of the Ottoman periphery. The complexity of Habsburg diplomacy in the East was demonstrated by an example from the early 17th century, the mission of István Kakas, which also marked the limits of the monarchy’s diplomatic activity.

The panel dedicated solely to the activities of SMALLST, chaired by the principal investigator, Gábor Kármán, included three papers. Lovro Kunčević’s highlighted the peculiarities of the decision-making process in the early modern city-republic of Ragusa. Governmental bodies as well as the gathering of information and its discussion were described. Special attention was given to the reaching of the final decision by elaborate secret voting with the ballots, a process that was applied in foreign policy decisions and selecting ambassadors, too. The highly formalized collective system, however, made decision-making extremely long in certain cases, while it was also subjected to information leakage. The first problem was partially remedied by an impressive number of Senate meetings, whereas the second by the imposition of severe punishment for those revealing details of the discussions.

Ágnes Szalai elaborated on a rarely investigated period of Transylvanian history. After familiarising the audience with the special types of envoys sent by the princes of Transylvania to the Porte, she offered a case study describing the solution to a frontier conflict with the Ottoman Empire. By the selection process of envoys sent to Constantinople she argued that diplomatic and foreign policy decision-making remained the prerogative of the prince of Transylvania with the influence of the princely council instead of that of the diet even in the period after 1660.
Michal Wasiucionek presented Moldavia as a minor player in greater politics in his contribution. Despite the apparently marginal position of Moldavian voivodes in the conduct of diplomatic affairs, their role is frequently cited in diplomatic correspondence and reports as important players shaping the policies of the Ottoman elite towards the Commonwealth, while Polish diplomacy complained about the intrigues attributed to them were frequently. To underline this argumentation, the case study describing the military and diplomatic activity of the agent Samuel Otwinowski in the early 1610s was presented.

The closing panel of the second day of the conference included yet another two papers from participants of our project. Zsuzsanna Hámori Nagy spoke about the joint efforts of the French, English, and Venetian ambassadors to procure permission for the prince of Transylvania to ally with the anti-Habsburg European powers and wage war on the emperor during the Danish phase of the Thirty Years War. By analysing the concept of permission, she identified a double authorisation process unique in the request for permissions from the Ottoman overlord of the princes of Transylvania. As the European ambassadors at the Porte did not understand why two separate permissions were needed, a mutual feeling of dissent and dissatisfaction developed towards the prince of Transylvania.

The contribution of Magdalena Jakubowska (which closed the entire event) offered insight into the building of a database to be used for processing the correspondence of the largest Polish magnate families, such as the Radziwiłłs and the Zamoyskis with Moldavia.
Last but not least, Domagoj Madunić spoke about the Venetian decision-making procedure during the war of Crete. After introducing the three major theaters of operations (Dalmatia, Aegean Sea and the Crete), he presented the process of decision-making concerning the directing and coordinating the general war effort and operations in the particular battlefield, the main agents (institutions and officials) participating therein, and the peculiarities of intelligence gathering, with special regard to the interplay between the various battlefield commanders and the central organs of the State in the process of reaching the final decision.