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Descrição da editora
An authoritative and entertaining account of the earliest ambassadors, who were at once diplomats, explorers and chroniclers of exotic civilisations.
In this book of extraordinary journeys and epochal encounters, Jonathan Wright traces the ambassadors’ story from Ancient Greece and Ashoka’s empire in India to the European Enlightenment and the birth of the nation state. He shows us Byzantine envoys dining with Attila the Hun, 13th-century monks journeying from Flanders to the Asian steppe, and Tudor ambassadors grappling with the chaos of Reformation. He examines the rituals and institutions of diplomacy, asking – for instance – why it was felt necessary to send an elephant from Baghdad to Aachen in 801 A.D. And he explores diplomacy’s dangers, showing us terrified, besieged ambassadors surviving on horsemeat and champagne in 1900s Beijing.
Wherever they journeyed, ambassadors reported back on everything they encountered – from moralities and myths to the plants and animals, fashions and foods of the countries in which they found themselves. Exchanging ideas and commodities, they enabled countries and civilisations to get acquainted in sometimes unpredictable ways.
Whether discussing the replacement of the roving by the resident ambassador or the subjects of the diplomatic immunity, gift-giving, intelligence-gathering and extraterritoriality, the author has fresh and intriguing things to say. For ambassadors, as much as any conqueror, merchant or explorer, have helped to write the human story.
‘Wright carefully balances general developments in the scope of ambassadorial duties with colourful and exemplary tales of particular instances.’ Publishers’ Weekly
‘Never dull.’ Sunday Telegraph
‘This is a book to cherish…Wright’s book should be on every diplomatic shelf.’ Oxford Times
Praise for ‘The Jesuits’:
‘It is an extraordinary story, which Wright tells colourfully. [His] book is full of vivid incident.’ Simon Callow, Guardian
‘Jonathan Wright’s witty book makes for a roller-coaster read.’ Eamon Duffy, Sunday Telegraph
‘Wright brings a lightness of touch and a full-blooded humanity to the task of understanding the Jesuit mystique.’ Sunday Times
‘Bursting with well-chosen anecdotes.’ Daily Telegraph
About the author
Jonathan Wright, the author of The Jesuits, was educated at Oxford and the University of Pennsylvania.
At the outset of this "book of journeys," Wright (God's Soldiers) declares, "Throughout history, ambassadors would be in the vanguard of cultural discovery." Presenting intricate ambassadorial narratives in the context of their age's geopolitical tensions, Wright shows how intrepid ambassadors in the ancient world traveled epic distances to foster trade, seek out alliances or discipline rivals. Wright's sources are historical a survey of 302 B.C Indian life by Macedonian ambassador Megathenes and the chronicles of Han dynasty ambassador Chang Ch'ien, who traveled as far as Kazakhstan and literary: he explores theories of diplomacy through the so-called "Sanskrit Machiavelli" Kautilya's treatise Arthasastra and the medieval Song of Roland, celebrating the diplomatic acumen of Charlemagne. Complex accounts of Crusade-era political maneuvers and growing rifts in the Christian commonwealth segue into discussion of the 15th-century rise of statecraft and of 16th-century Protestant-Catholic tensions. He also describes diplomatic faux pas such as the British envoy Sir Henry Wooten's flounderings in the 17th-century Catholic bastion of Venice. Illuminating the practice of diplomatic immunity, the gradual formalization of the institution of global diplomacy and the role of maverick diplomats, Wright carefully balances general developments in the scope of ambassadorial duties with colorful and exemplary tales of particular instances.