Diplomacy, War(ts) and All


Diplomacy is arguably humankind’s second oldest profession. It has never been in decline, even if its reputation has waxed and waned over the millennia, and at the current time it is more practised, institutionalised, researched and taught than ever before. Yet, from a public view, it has always been cloaked in intrigue and opacity. The reason is the high stakes of its outcomes and the identities of its powerful stakeholders. Indeed, there is an inextricable relationship between diplomacy and its antithesis, which is raw power and, in the extreme, war. Our day-long course lifts the veil on this ancient institution, and offers a glimpse into its contradictions in theory and practice.

We start off with an overview of how diplomacy is practised in pursuit of soft power, through public diplomacy and the promotion of a state’s cultural assets, often referred to as ‘cultural diplomacy’. 

This is followed by a case study of the United Kingdom’s diplomacy, and the ebbs and flows in its practice over the centuries.

Our third lecture addresses the intriguing new online dimension of diplomacy, and delves into the issues that make ‘digital diplomacy’ both an opportunity and a minefield.

The final lecture of the day investigates a case study of (failed?) diplomacy: Europe’s handling of the Ukraine-Russia crisis.

Programme details


Diplomacy: arts and all
Paul Docherty


A bumpy ride: UK diplomacy in historical perspective
Dr Martin Holmes


The good and dark side of digital diplomacy
Dr Jennifer Cassidy


Diplomacy in (in)action? Europe and the Russia-Ukraine divorce
Dr Martin Holmes

Course disperses


Description Costs
Tuition - in-person attendance (includes tea/coffee) £85.00
Tuition - virtual attendance £75.00
Baguette £6.10
Hot lunch (3 courses) £16.50


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit or are a full-time student in the UK you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees.

Concessionary fees for short courses


Paul Docherty


Paul Docherty has spent most of his career in the British Council, the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. After reading Economic History at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, he taught English Language and Literature in Spain and at Moscow State University. He then joined the British Council after completing his M.Litt in Linguistics and his first overseas post was in Helsinki. He subsequently served as Cultural Attaché/Deputy Director of the British Council in Moscow, Cultural Counsellor/Director of the British Council in Prague, Rome, and Paris. Postings in the UK included Director Communications, Director Scotland, and Director UK 2012. Paul has wide-ranging interests in international relations and diplomacy - especially cultural relations, public and cultural diplomacy and soft power – and has delivered guest lectures on these topics at universities and institutions across Europe and in the UK. He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2008.

Dr Martin Holmes


Dr Martin Holmes is a member of the Senior Common Room at St Hugh’s College, where he was previously Lecturer in Politics for over 20 years. Additionally, he has been Director of the annual Nebraska at Oxford summer program since 1989. For the OUDCE he has taught several syllabi on the Foundations of Diplomacy course over the past decade, as well as guest lectures for the Diplomatic Studies Program. A strong supporter of lifelong education, he has also been a regular lecturer for the University of the Third Age (U3A). A specialist in International Relations and European Integration, he is the author of seven books. His latest publication, a diplomatic history of 20th century Europe, was published by Routledge in August: From the Treaty of Versailles to the Treaty of Maastricht: Conflict, carnage and cooperation in Europe 1918 – 93.

Dr Jennifer Cassidy


Dr Jennifer A. Cassidy is a diplomatic scholar at the University of Oxford, where she lectures on Diplomacy and International Law, Digital Diplomacy, and Gender and Diplomacy. Her PhD (2017) from the University of Oxford focused on the emerging discipline of Digital Diplomacy. With a specific focus on the changing nature of digital diplomatic signalling and online strategic narratives during times of political crisis. Jennifer produced the first edited volume on Gender and Diplomacy: Theory and Practice (Routledge). Prior to teaching, Jennifer served as a diplomatic attaché to Ireland's Permanent Mission to the United Nations (New York), European External Action Service to the Kingdom of Cambodia, and Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Headquarters during the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Jennifer also contributes regularly to media commentary, including the BBC, Sky News, ABC Australia and The Irish Times.


Accommodation is not included in the price, but if you wish to stay with us the night before the course, then please contact our Residential Centre.

Accommodation in Rewley House - all bedrooms are modern, comfortably furnished and each room has tea and coffee making facilities, Freeview television, and Free WiFi and private bath or shower rooms.  Please contact our Residential Centre on +44 (0) 1865 270362 or email res-ctr@conted.ox.ac.uk for details of availability and discounted prices.

IT requirements

For those joining us online

We will be using Zoom for the livestreaming of this course. If you’re attending online, you’ll be able to see and hear the speakers, and to submit questions via the Zoom interface. Joining instructions will be sent out prior to the start date. We recommend that you join the session at least 10-15 minutes prior to the start time – just as you might arrive a bit early at our lecture theatre for an in-person event.

Please note that this course will not be recorded.