There is no published edition of the diplomatic correspondence of Thomas Bodley. Despite valuable attention paid to his later book-collecting activities in forming the famous library at Oxford, little research has focused on his important earlier career as Elizabeth I’s diplomatic representative in the United Provinces in the later years of her reign. Although a small number of scholars have recently shown interest in this early period of his life, the dispersed and substantial corpus renders difficult the comprehensive research required for such a significant subject and figure.1

Celebrated by ministers and his contemporaries for his capable, busy and efficient negotiation in his position as the English member of the Council of State, Bodley’s epistolary output from this period, and the correspondence he received, clearly demonstrates the myriad features of diplomatic policy and practice, illustrating in critical detail the sensitive processes of public and private negotiation and conduct required of the envoy abroad. The letters, scattered in libraries and restricted collections, are broad and richly textured in their scope for historical research, standing as a record of the linguistic, documentary and social practices and procedures involved in Elizabethan letter-writing. The correspondence relating to Bodley’s diplomatic mission reveal the quotidian epistolary practices of the resident ambassador, including managing fiscal issues, negotiating detailed terms of treaties and reporting military maneouvres. The letters provide a fresh and tantalizing insight into the history of intelligence-gathering, revealing the centrality of this activity to all arenas of diplomacy, and its closeness to the centres of political power. This electronic edition of the correspondence provides a valuable entry-point into this under-studied feature of Elizabethan political history and makes the letters publicly available for the first time.

1 See William H Clennell, ‘Bodley before the Bodleian’ and David J B Trim, ‘Sir Thomas Bodley and the International Protestant Cause’, in Bodleian Library Record (2002), (1998) respectively.