Part of the International Political Economy Series book series IPES Abstract International trade is no longer just about buyers and sellers, shipping and marketing, firms and distributors. Nor is it only about customs officials and border inspections, tariffs and quotas, export subsidies and import licences. Over the past three millennia, international trade has moved from being a series of infrequent journeys to meet unknown peoples, to exchange the familiar for the exotic for the benefit of rulers and elites, to being today a primary driver of global economic growth. International trade as a percentage of world economic output has increased from around two percent in the early nineteenth century to nearly 35 percent in the year Without international trade, there can be no global economic prosperity.

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Sidney Shapiro Shapiro 1 Amarna and Its IR Context The Amarna letters were an extraordinary archaeological find, as they gave concrete proof of the type of diplomatic system and international relations existent in the ancient Near East. In Amarna Diplomacy: The Beginnings of International Relations by Cohen and Westbrook, the Amarna political system is evaluated through various letters from the collection and then contrasted to modern diplomatic systems.

This essay will outline the Amarna age and system and examine the diplomatic character of the system. The essay will then examine the issue of international relations IR , as well as specific elements of the diplomatic relationship present in the correspondence. Finally, the role of trade in the Amarna political system as well as contrasts to modern diplomacy will be examined. The discovery of the Amarna letters provided rare insight into the state of diplomatic affairs in the ancient Near East.

The letters were categorized into three disparate collections, which Cohen and Westbrook identify as international correspondence of diplomatic nature, imperial documents of an administrative nature, and miscellaneous documents that were not considered as they did not possess an international diplomatic character pg. The essays contained in Amarna Diplomacy are the result of a conference that included not only political scientists, archaeologists, and historians, but also members of the contemporary diplomatic political community.

According to Cohen and Westbrook, the letters represent: "The culmination of a tradition, developed over centuries, through which states might communicate with one another in a common language, [and] The Amarna system, bearing many facets of modern diplomatic structures, has been described as "a diplomatic regime consisting of rules, conventions, procedures, and institutions governing the representation of and the communication and negotiations between Great Kings pg.

While it was feasible for one kingdom to conquer another, the cost-benefit analysis regarding the viability of war as opposed to the profits to be potentially made by trade were constantly considered within the Amarna context. Significantly, the majority of the Amarna letters were not written in the common language of Egypt, but rather in "Akkadian Babylonian , which was the lingua franca of international relations pg.

Cohen and Westbrook maintain that this concept of language is critical to the understanding of the Amarna international system. They note that participants in the Amarna system were nations who spoke in "totally unrelated languages, worshipping an assortment of gods The discovery of "the Hittite archive from Boghazkoi Participants in the Armana system are "interested rather in the political aspects of the relationships, aspects which are better satisfied by endless negotiations rather than efficient and fast arrangements ibid.

Liverani explores several interesting aspects of the process of diplomatic exchange within the Amarna system. The gifts, by virtue of their value and appearance, acted as signs of sincerity or acquiescence, or the solidification of a position in an ongoing negotiation. Liverani notes that it is not politic in the Armana system to ask for a gift, however leaders can subtly remind each other or allude to an unintended slight in which the recipient would be required to reciprocate with an appropriate gift pg.

When gifts are given, they must be given in a "disinterested way ibid ," which symbolizes that the intention, rather than the gift, is of primary importance. In addition, purposeful elements of delay and stalling tactics are employed in the Amarna system in order to either add political advantage through prolonging negotiation, or to ensure the status quo is maintained in order to obtain a favourable negotiating position. In all these ways, the Great Kings were able to establish hegemony over their various domains and act in a cohesive manner to ensure widespread stability, both internally and externally.

Berridge examines and critiques the supposition that there is an analogous connection between modern diplomatic organization and that of the Amarna system. Berridge describes the Amarna diplomatic exchange as: "diplomacy Berridge critiques several aspects of the Amarna system, citing among them the concept of diplomatic immunity. A cornerstone of modern diplomatic immunity is that diplomats enjoy unimpeded access to travel and security.

In the Amarna context, however, messengers were sent on one-way missions and were then reliant on the whims of their receiving hosts for transportation, security, and other logistical support to return home pg. Under this scheme, and in contrast to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, envoys did not have the ability to travel unimpeded through third- party countries which were not part of the overarching Amarna diplomatic system. Furthermore, Berridge notes that, "envoys were temporary rather than resident pg.

Berridge states that: "A sophisticated diplomatic system must feature continuous rather than episodic or even regular contact between the parties, unless they are actually at war, and preferably even then pg.

The majority of diplomats, Berridge notes, were unskilled and casual diplomatic representatives pg. Although Berridge concedes that there were some exceptions, as there was a limited number of what could be referred to as professional politicians or unimportant leaders of state who represented with slightly more authority, they too were subject to communication and transportation constrictions.

Quoting Sir Herbert Butterfield, Berridge describes the Amarna letters as having "great fame as early documents of foreign policy Indeed, the purpose of the Amarna system was not necessarily in the ongoing regulation and micromanagement of trade, but rather in a cordial system of diplomacy that ensured a loose alliance of key participants in a political and trade process. Moreover, while the Amarna system lacked some of the intricacies of contemporary political and diplomatic exchange, in some ways it exhibited a more complex and deeper understanding of foreign cultures, as well as an acceptance of their unique potential contributions.

The equilibrium attained by the Amarna system ensured a long-term global stability for its component members that survived for hundreds of years. Amarna Diplomacy relates to the overall thesis of politics in the ancient Near East in that it underscores a system of diplomatic and commercial exchange.

While the aims of the diplomatic system were different than one would expect of a contemporary diplomatic process, the ultimate goal was the same: achieving regional and global stability and prosperity while avoiding head-on conflict and confrontation. The codification of the Amarna letters offered a new historical perspective by which to view contemporary politics, linking the central idea of diplomacy to something that has been existent in society for millennia.

Raymond Westbrook Raymond Cohen. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, Related Papers.


Amarna letter EA 366

In the later years of Amunhotep III father of Akhenaten and the early years of Akhenaten himself, events in the north began to trouble the royal court. The Egyptian empire, long established in Canaan and Syria, was under threat. Great powers were rising, and regional vassals were starting to fight among themselves. Into this milieu, a man named Abdi-Ashirta began to make waves… Episode date c.


Amarna Diplomacy: The Beginnings of International Relations / Edition 1



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