Dr Tracey A. Sowerby

  • Early modern diplomatic history
  • Early modern British history
  • Cultural encounters

My research interests cover early modern politics, religion, print culture, and intellectual culture and the interactions between them. I explored these in my book, Renaissance and Reform in Tudor England: The Careers of Sir Richard Morison, c.1513-1556, which provides and intellectual biography of Henry VIII's most prolific propagandist. I have also written several articles and essays on diplomacy, propaganda, print culture, and religion in the sixteenth century.

At present, I am researching the cultural history of Tudor diplomacy and writing two books for OUP: The Tudor Diplomatic Corps: A Cultural History and Tudor Diplomatic Culture. I take a multidisciplinary approach to the study of how English diplomatic practice, personnel and theory adapted to three major sixteenth century developments: the introduction of resident ambassadors, the English Reformation and female rule. A major interest is the role of diplomacy as a site of cultural exchange, both in terms of cultural ideas (eg though debates, rituals, and ceremonies) and the transnational circulation of material objects. Further areas of research include ambassadors' intellectual and religious networks; diplomatic ceremonial and theory; the effectiveness and uniformity of royal iconography; the equipping and training of diplomats; and the impact of ambassadorial service on politicians' notions of the English state. Cumulatively, this allows me to address issues such as specialisation in Tudor diplomacy; the extent to which diplomacy was considered a separate profession; non-verbal means of diplomatic communication; and the effectiveness of the Tudor diplomatic corps. More importantly, though, uncovering the mechanisms underpinning early modern diplomatic practice and the cultural considerations that influenced them allows a much deeper and sophisticated appreciation of why English monarchs interacted with their princely peers in the manner in which they did.

I am PI on an interdisciplinary international research network 'Textual Ambassadors: Cultures of Diplomacy and Literary Writing in the Early Modern World' which was funded by the AHRC from 2012 to 2015. This brought together experts in history, literature, and cultural studies to investigate the relationship between literature and diplomacy in the early modern world. For more information on the project and the publications arising from it see www.textualambassadors.org

A BARSEA award 'Centres of Diplomacy, Centres of Culture' (2015-2016) gave me the opportunity to organise two conferences for early career scholars which focussed on diplomatic cultures.


Featured Publication

Renaissance and Reform in Tudor England: The Careers of Sir Richard Morison c. 1513-1556 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

Renaissance and Reform in Tudor England

Sir Richard Morison (c.1513-1556) is best known as Henry VIII's most prolific propagandist. Yet he was also an accomplished scholar, politician, theologian and diplomat who was linked to the leading political and religious figures of his day. Despite his prominence, Morison has never received a full historical treatment. 

Based on extensive archival research, Renaissance and Reform in Tudor England provides a well-rounded picture of Morison that contributes significantly to the broader questions of intellectual, cultural, religious, and political history. Tracey Sowerby contextualizes Morison within each of his careers: he is considered as a propagandist, politician, reformer, diplomat and Marian exile. Morison emerges as a more influential and original figure than previously thought.

  • Diplomatic Cultures at the Ottoman Court c.1500-1630

  • Diplomatic Gift-Giving at the Ottoman Court

  • Sociability and Ceremony: Diplomats at the Porte, c.1550–1632

  • Early Modern Queens Consort and Dowager and Diplomatic Gifts

  • English Diplomacy and Renaissance Literature: A Guide to Further Reading

  • English Diplomatic Relations and Literary Cultures in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, a special issue of the Huntington Library Quarterly

  • Francis Thynne’s Perfect ambassadour and the Construction of Diplomatic Thought in Elizabethan England

  • Introduction: English Diplomatic Relations and Literary Cultures in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

  • Introduction: Unwrapping the Dangerous Gift

  • Roger Ascham and Mid-Tudor Diplomatic Careers

  • More

Current DPhil Students

  • Victoria Smith

I would be willing to hear from potential Masters students regarding Early modern British and European political, cultural and religious history.

I currently teach:


History of the British Isles IV History of the British Isles IV
General History III General History VII
Approaches: Anthropology, Art, Gender General History VIII
  Disciplines of History
  Thesis Supervision
  Further Subject: Literature and Politics in Early Modern England
  Special Subject: Government, Politics and Society, 1547-1553