Mapping French Diplomacy
Royal Correspondence and Diplomatic Geography 1494-1715

A Note to the Reader

This digital monograph is in the process of ongoing production. Use the Table of Contents to navigate the currently available sections. Sections will be added as they are completed. Sections are likely to be modified as new research is conducted. All changes can be found at GitHub. Feel free to leave feedback as an issue in the GitHub repository or e-mail me.

Mapping French Diplomacy is a born-digital monograph that analyzes France’s diplomatic geography from 1494 to 1715 by mapping all the letters with foreign correspondents written by French rulers. The project marries written analysis with visual analysis in a way only possible through modern interactive web technologies such as leaflet.js maps and other visualization tools. The project’s goal is to represent France’s diplomatic geography during this period during which the Franco-Spanish rivalry dominated France’s foreign policy. It operates within three separate genres simultaneously. First, it is a monograph that tells the story of French foreign policy over two centuries in a linear fashion much like a paper book might. Mapping French Diplomacy argues that French foreign policy remained consistently focused on countering Spanish hegemony in the Euro-Mediterranean, and cross-confessional alliances were a central means to this end. Due to this reality, I contend that France’s geographic realm of political activity extended far beyond the narrow confines of Northwestern Europe, which represents the extent of France’s geopolitical community in the historiography. Secondly, Mapping French Diplomacy also operates as a sort of encyclopedia of French foreign policy. Any point on the map representing a person or letter recipient can open a window that includes a photograph of the individual (if available) and further information about the person and how they related to French foreign policy. These entries range from a few sentences to a couple thousand words depending on the significance to France’s diplomatic project. Thirdly and finally, this monograph is intended to operate as a finding aid to researchers for letters from French rulers. Each map is fully interactive and searchable by dates, topic (proper nouns in the letter), and recipient name. Moreover, many of the letters link to digitized manuscripts where available and some also make the image of the letter available in a popup window in the site itself. While the letters are organized spatially by the location of the recipient, readers can open a letter table to see each individual letter located on the map at any given time. The table updates in real time to represent only the data on the map. I will also provide a number of appendices that make the data available in various forms. The “Data Appendix” provides access to the raw data from each database. The “Map Appendix” provides all the data from the databases searchable on a single an interactive map, including a number of interactive visualizations that update in real time much like a dashboard. This appendix is intended as a research tool for scholars. The multi-dimensional user interface is only possible due to the interactive nature of web technologies.

The project will be separated into four parts along with an introduction and conclusion: Part I, the Italian Wars (1494-1559); Part II, the Wars of Religion (1560-1629); Part III, the Thirty Years War and the Fronde (1610-1659); Part IV, the wars of Louis XIV (1660-1714). Sections within each part will emphasize both narrative and thematic elements of the project. For instance, “Part II: The Wars of Religion” will comprise sections on the letters of each author–Catherine de Médici, Charles IX (r. 1560-1574), Henri III, and Henri IV–but sections will also focus on especially significant periods of the Wars of Religion such as the years surrounding the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre when Catholics massacred Protestants throughout the country in 1572, and the period known as the wars of the Catholic League (1584-1598). Part II will also include a comparative section of the letters of the various rulers. Research will take place in a series of phases. I will conduct the research for Part II first for a variety of reasons. First, my expertise is on the Wars of Religion, and I’m most familiar with the locations of the letters of French royalty during this period. Secondly, many of the letters from this period have been collected into multi-volume sets, expediting the location process. I will begin this section with the letters of Henri III, then Henri IV, then Catherine de Medici (multi-volume letter collections exist for each of these), and I will conduct the research on Charles IX last. I will then move on to Part I, then Part III, and finally Part IV.

Each map/section is fully interactive. The links within the associated narrative change the data visualized on the map to reflect the point in the narrative. Moreover, each cluster of points on the map can be expanded to see each individual point representing one letter sent from a French ruler to someone in that location (for the letters sections) or one ambassador present in that location during one year (for the ambassadors sections). Clicking on a point on the map will open a popup that contains further information on the letter/diplomat the point represents, including basic information, such as a short summary of the letter and letter topics as well as a button to open up the encyclopedic entry on the person or letter recipient. Letter topics refer to other people, states, or principalities (neither France, nor the location of the recipient of the letter) discussed in the letter. All information on the map is included in the table for the map that can be opened with the open-table button. Finally, Appendices are included, providing uninterpreted visualizations, maps with all data content, and the raw data curated for this project. These Appendices are intended to act as research aids for scholars. With them you can locate letters, basic letter content, and links to their location through an interactive mapped environment. Currently, only the raw data is available. I will add other appendices will as the project develops.

Cite this page:
Nathan Michalewicz, “Preface,” in Mappping French Diplomacy: Royal Correspondence and Diplomatic Geography 1494-1715.