Public diplomacy is a relatively young, though popular, concept and field of study, with a deluge of literature since the turn of the century. The practice of public diplomacy, or diplomatic engagement with people, preceded the integration of its terminology within governments and ministries of foreign affairs. Public diplomacy as a practice and field of study is subject to wider evolutions occurring in diplomacy, international relations, and societies. Public diplomacy is traditionally considered to be different from traditional government-to-government diplomacy because it engages nonstate actors. Although many policymakers and scholars associate public diplomacy primarily with “soft power” (the power to persuade by attraction), it is relevant to both soft and hard power. In recent decades, public diplomacy has become increasingly central to the practice of diplomacy. Public diplomacy is a multidisciplinary field of study with little in the way of a theoretical body and uniform definition, and it is characterized by conceptual confusion. With hundreds of diverging descriptions, there is no one-size-fits-all definition of public diplomacy, and the debate on what it is and is not remains robust. But this debate also distracts from deeper issues in the field and broad international agreement on public diplomacy’s evolution and significance. Despite definitional issues, two common conceptual frameworks recur in the literature: “old” (unidirectional government communication) and “new” (network relational multi-actor) public diplomacy. In effect, these analytical categories are scholarly attempts to adjust public diplomacy’s concepts and key functions (actors, publics, means, goals) to the changing international environment. They do not replace one another but are complementary to each other. The latest round of scholarship seeks to move beyond these categorizations by emphasizing the integration of old and new in public diplomacy as well as public diplomacy’s integration within diplomacy. US writings once dominated the literature, but contributions from other regions are increasing rapidly. The study of and literature on public diplomacy is no longer confined to the West, with works now coming from and on Asia, particularly China. This article’s aim is to guide readers in their comprehension of public diplomacy through a selection of sources from various viewpoints. Beginning with works and online resources that offer a General Overview, the article further suggests key Journals to consult on public diplomacy. Its next section (A Multidisciplinary Field of Study) recommends a selection of literature coming from major disciplines and viewpoints in which public diplomacy has been studied (public diplomacy and Communication, Diplomacy Studies, Soft Power). Following this, it presents a selection of literature on public diplomacy’s conceptual frameworks from different time frames (20th-century, 21st-century, and future public diplomacy). Finally, it recommends literature from and on different geographical regions.
Because public diplomacy literature relates to a myriad of issues and is studied within various conceptual, disciplinary, and geographical points of view, works that provide an all-inclusive overview simply do not exist. There are, however, special issues of journals, such as Cowan and Cull 2008 and Special Issue: Credible Public Diplomacy, and edited compendiums that provide strong and varied overviews of the broad scope of public diplomacy. Three edited works—Cowan and Cull 2008, Melissen 2007, and Snow and Taylor 2009—provide essential field knowledge. For newcomers and experts alike, these sources give the reader a particularly fine overview of public diplomacy by bringing together writings on different topics, cases, and approaches. These standard works are accessible to students, scholars, and practitioners. They are recommended to those searching for a straightforward means of expanding their fluency on the topic and as good starting points for delving more deeply into specifics. For the reader interested in more literature on public diplomacy, an overview of publications, bibliographies, discussions, and events can also be found online at different institutes’ and universities’ websites. These vary in quality, and most are subject to change and differ in political angle. A few sites are of fine quality, recommendable and of particular use to students, scholars, and practitioners searching for interactive forums, events, databases, and publications, such as the website of the University of Southern California Center on Public Diplomacy. There is also an extensive archive of lists of literature online from Bruce Gregory’s Public Diplomacy Resources, and Phil Taylor’s Website.
Bruce Gregory’s Public Diplomacy Resources. Institute for Public Diplomacy and Global Communication, George Washington University.
An extensive annotated overview of public diplomacy books, articles, government reports and websites. Useful for teachers, students, scholars and practitioners. Updates readers every two months on the newest literature. Archive (from 2003) available online.
Cowan, Geoffrey, and Nicholas J. Cull, eds. Special Issue: Public Diplomacy in a Changing World. ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 616.1 (2008).
Provides broad insight into public diplomacy theory, tools, case studies, and scholarship development. Approaches public diplomacy from different angles, such as soft power, the public sphere, place branding, international relations theory, and new technologies. Its conceptual section is somewhat reliant on US thought, but also includes Chinese and South American cases.
Melissen, Jan, ed. The New Public Diplomacy: Soft Power in International Relations. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
An edited collection of articles on the new environment, changing perspectives, and improving practices of public diplomacy. Contributed to putting the notion of the “new public diplomacy” on the map. First published in 2005.
Phil Taylor’s Website. Institute of Communication Studies, University of Leeds.
Discontinued after its creator’s death in 2010 but still very valuable for its overview of three hundred sources on public diplomacy and related fields, with a slight focus on US publications. Many references have full articles or in-text executive summaries and hyperlinks attached.
Snow, Nancy, and Philip M. Taylor, eds. Routledge Handbook of Public Diplomacy. New York: Routledge, 2009.
This handbook generously adds to the literature, with twenty-nine essays by scholars and former practitioners. It brings together various perspectives (strategic communication, historical, public opinion, etc.), facets (cultural and citizen diplomacy), and cases (Asian, American European). It is slightly oriented to the United States, but is broad in scope.
Special Issue: Credible Public Diplomacy: A Lesson for Our Times. Fletcher Forum of World Affairs 32.3 (2008).
Less frequently cited, this special edition provides useful articles and speeches given at the Fletcher School’s 100th Anniversary Edward R. Murrow Memorial Conference. It is available in hard copy and online and contains contributions on key issues such as credibility, definitions, and the use of culture and broadcasting in public diplomacy.
Continuously updated website with extensive information. Contains public diplomacy publications from staff and fellows as well as from international public diplomacy scholars and practitioners. Includes: blogs, PDiN (Public Diplomacy in the News), book review collections, literature list, and archive from 2004.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions and individuals. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article
Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.
If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest.
- Academic Theories of International Relations Since 1945
- Arab-Israeli Wars, 1967-1973, The
- Arab-Israeli Wars, The
- Arms Control
- Arms Races
- Asylum Policies
- Authoritarian Regimes
- Balance of Power Theory
- Bargaining Theory of War
- Challenge of Communism, The
- China and Japan
- China's Defense Policy
- China's Foreign Policy
- Civil Resistance
- Civil Society in the European Union
- Cold War, The
- Conflict Behavior and the Prevention of War
- Conflict Management
- Countermeasures in International Law
- Criminal Law, International
- Critical Theory of International Relations
- Cuban Missile Crisis, The
- Cyber Security
- Cyber Warfare
- Demobilization, Post World War I
- Democracies and World Order
- Democracy and Conflict
- Democracy in World Politics
- Deterrence Theory
- Diplomacy, History of
- Diplomacy, Public
- Disaster Diplomacy
- Eastern Front (World War I)
- Economics, International
- Embedded Liberalism
- Emerging Powers and BRICS
- Empirical Testing of Formal Models
- Epidemic Diseases and their Effects on History
- Ethics and Morality in International Relations
- Ethnicity in International Relations
- European Migration Policy
- European Security and Defense Policy, The
- European Union as an International Actor
- European Union, International Relations of the
- Fascism, The Challenge of
- Food Security
- Forecasting in International Relations
- Foreign Policy, Theories of
- French Empire, 20th-Century
- From Club to Network Diplomacy
- Game Theory and Interstate Conflict
- Genocide, Politicide, and Mass Atrocities Against Civilian...
- Genocides, 20th Century
- Geopolitics and Geostrategy
- Germany in World War II
- Global Civil Society
- Global Constitutionalism
- Global Environmental Politics
- Global Ethic of Care
- Global Governance
- Global Justice, Western Perspectives
- Greater Middle East, The
- Hague Conferences (1899, 1907)
- Human Rights
- Human Rights and Humanitarian Diplomacy
- Human Rights Law
- Intelligence Oversight
- Internal Displacement
- International Conflict Settlements, The Durability of
- International Criminal Court, The
- International Economic Organizations (IMF and World Bank)
- International Health Governance
- International Justice, Theories of
- International Law
- International Monetary Relations, History of
- International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
- International Nongovernmental Organizations
- International Organizations
- International Relations as a Social Science
- International Relations Theory
- International Security
- International Society
- International Society, Theorizing
- International Support For Nonstate Armed Groups
- Internet Law
- Interstate Cooperation Theory and International Institutio...
- Intervention and Use of Force
- Iran, Politics and Foreign Policy
- Just War Theory
- Kurdistan and Kurdish Politics
- Law of the Sea
- Laws of War
- Leadership in International Affairs
- League of Nations
- Lean Forward and Pull Back Options for US Grand Strategy
- Military Science
- Minority Rights
- Multilateralism (1992–), Return to
- National Liberation, International Law and Wars of
- National Security Act of 1947, The
- Nations and Nationalism
- NATO, Europe, and Russia: Security Issues and the Border R...
- New Multilateralism in the Early 21st Century
- Nonproliferation and Counterproliferation
- Peace of Utrecht
- Peacebuilding, Post-Conflict
- Political Demography
- Political Economy of National Security
- Political Learning and Socialization
- Political Psychology
- Popular Culture and International Relations
- Post-Civil War State
- Post-Conflict and Transitional Justice
- Power Transition Theory
- Preventive War and Preemption
- Prisoners, Treatment of
- Prospect Theory in International Relations
- Public Opinion and the European Union
- Religion and International Relations
- Religiously Motivated Violence
- Responsibility to Protect
- Rising Powers in World Politics
- Russian Revolutions and Civil War, 1917-1921
- Sanctions in International Law
- Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), The
- Shining Path
- Social Scientific Theories of Imperialism
- Soviet Union in World War II
- Space Strategy, Policy, and Power
- Spatial Dependencies and International Mediation
- State Theory in International Relations
- Strategic Air Power
- Strategic and Net Assessments
- Sustainable Development
- Teaching International Relations
- Territorial Disputes
- Terrorist Financing
- Terrorist Group Strategies
- The Changing Nature of Diplomacy
- The Queer in/of International Relations
- Theories of International Relations, Feminist
- Theory, Chinese International Relations
- Trade Law
- Transnational Actors
- Transnational Social Movements
- Trust and International Relations
- UN Security Council
- United Nations, The
- US and Africa
- US–UK Special Relationship
- Vienna Conventions on Diplomacy and Consular Relations
- Voluntary International Migration
- War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714)
- Western Balkans
- Western Front (World War I)
- Westphalia, Peace of (1648)
- Women and Peacemaking Peacekeeping
- World Economy 1919-1939
- World Polity School
- World War II Diplomacy and Political Relations