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Under the Wire: How the Telegraph Changed Diplomacy
by David Paull NICKLES
Harvard University Press, 2003
Cloth: 978-0-674-01035-2 | eISBN: 978-0-674-04155-4
Library of Congress Classification HE7631.N516 2003
Dewey Decimal Classification 327.209034


How did the telegraph, a new and revolutionary form of communication, affect diplomats, who tended to resist change? In a study based on impressive multinational research, David Paull Nickles examines the critical impact of the telegraph on the diplomacy of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Case studies in crisis diplomacy--the War of 1812, the Trent affair during the U.S. Civil War, and the famous 1917 Zimmermann telegram--introduce wide-ranging thematic discussions on the autonomy of diplomats; the effects of increased speed on decision making and public opinion; the neglected role of clerks in diplomacy; and the issues of expense, garbled text, espionage, and technophobia that initially made foreign ministries wary of telegraphy. Ultimately, the introduction of the telegraph contributed to the centralization of foreign ministries and the rising importance of signals intelligence. The faster pace of diplomatic disputes invited more emotional decisions by statesmen, while public opinion often exercised a belligerent influence on crises developing over a shorter time period.

Under the Wire offers a fascinating new perspective on the culture of diplomacy and the social history of technology.

Table of Contents:


I. Control
1. The Anglo-American Crisis of 1812
2. Diplomatic Autonomy and Telecommunications

II. Speed
3. The Trent Affair
4. Speed and Diplomacy
5. Diplomatic Time

III. The Medium
6. The Zimmermann Telegram
7. Technical and Economic Factors



Reviews of this book:
David Paull Nickles has plumbed the archives of four countries to determine just how transformative [the invention of the telegraph] really was. Under the Wire is a subtle and impressive examination of history.
--Christian D. Brose, Wall Street Journal

In this study of the impact of telegraphy on the management of international relations, the reader is rewarded time and again by finding original observations regarding familiar events. This is a book that can have a shaping effect not only on the field of international relations but on many others, since it compels one to think hard about how changes in technology affect behavior and thought among groups with deeply rooted traditions and beliefs.
--Ernest R. May, Harvard University

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