The Courtiers of Civilization

A Study of Diplomacy

By Sasson Sofer

Subjects: International Relations, History, Sociology
Paperback : 9781438448923, 138 pages, July 2014
Hardcover : 9781438448930, 138 pages, December 2013

Alternative formats available from:

Table of contents

1. Notes on the Origins and Evolution of the Diplomatic Mission
2. Voices for Diplomacy: Statesmen, Diplomats, and Philosophers
3. Conventions and Rituals
4. The Diplomatic Forum
5. Credentials of Words
6. Diplomats and Their Milieu
7. The Courtiers of Civilization
8. Diplomacy Reconsidered

Comprehensive study of the diplomat and the diplomatic mission in Western civilization.


The professional diplomat frequently takes a back seat in the public imagination to such figures as the great heads of state and leading military figures. In The Courtiers of Civilization, Sasson Sofer aims to restore the importance and reputation of the diplomat in Western civilization. Drawing on an exhaustive reading of the vast literature on diplomacy, from the late Renaissance forward, he fashions an engaging portrait of the diplomat's milieu and lifestyle, his place in diplomatic rituals, and his role in international dialogue. Blending historical evidence, sociological analysis, and political thought, Sofer explores the vocational predicament faced by the diplomat, who must play many roles, including negotiator, honorable spy, horse trader, appeaser, and bureaucrat, while at the same time maneuvering in the world of rulers and warriors. Ultimately, the diplomat is a symbol of peace and a custodian of the virtues and norms of a civilized and functional international society—in sum a "courtier of civilization."

Sasson Sofer is Professor of International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His books include Zionism and the Foundations of Israeli Diplomacy and Peacemaking in a Divided Society: Israel After Rabin.


"Sofer's reflective book is richly supported … He draws from a robust list of academic secondary sources." — H-Net Reviews (H-War)

"…Sofer … is a veteran scholar of the history, philosophy, and theory of international relations. He brings to bear these invaluable conceptual and analytical skills in researching the origins and evolution of diplomacy and in presenting diplomats as praiseworthy 'courtiers of civilization' … Sofer's study of diplomacy radiates erudition." — Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs

"Sasson Sofer has written a superb primer on the history and mission of modern diplomacy. It is a short book that can be read in a single sitting, its subject's vast scope notwithstanding … It deserves a wide audience." — New Diplomatic History Blog

"Clearly a master of the literature in the field, Sasson Sofer has produced a concise yet comprehensive and very accessible book on the history of diplomacy and its current challenges, with thought being given to the possible future evolution of diplomatic practice." — Erik Goldstein, coeditor of Guide to International Relations and Diplomacy