September 3 – Anniversary of the Signing of theTreaty of Paris

Posted on September 3, 2014

I wrote a ridiculous title for today's post. When you read that title, you should wonder, “WHICH Treaty of Paris?”

According to Wikipedia, there are a few “Treaty of Paris” signings. One might even say QUITE a few. Like, many:

  • 1229
  • 1259
  • 1303
  • 1320
  • 1323
    This painting of the Treaty of Paris,
    by Benjamin West, was never completed
    because the British diplomats refused to pose.

    Can we say "bad loser"?
  • 1355
  • 1515
  • 1623
  • 1626
  • 1657
  • 1718
  • 1761
  • 1763
  • 1783
  • 1784
  • 1796
  • 1802
  • 1806
  • 1810
  • 1814
  • 1815
  • 1856
  • 1857
  • 1898
  • 1900
  • 1918
  • 1919
  • 1920
  • 1947
  • 1951
  • 1952
  • 1973
  • 1995

The one that happened on this date in 1783 was between Great Britain and the United States of America; it formally ended the American Revolutionary War.

Why were so many treaties signed in Paris?

We often think of the Eiffel Tower when
we think of Paris, but it wasn't built
until 1889.
There are several reasons. One of course is that France is somewhat centrally located to much of Europe, and Paris has for centuries had high-level offerings in lodging and food and culture.

Partly it's because France dominated Europe through its military, for a while, and since this country and language were associated with power, many Europeans and Americans learned to speak French and sought to learn about all things French. From fashion to art, cooking to dance, French language dominated many fields, and Paris was considered to some extent to be one of the world's gems.

Partly it's merely “tradition.” Once Paris was known as the place to be for diplomacy, there was a snowball effect that caused even more diplomats to travel to Paris for peace talks.

Because Paris became a place where negotiations and peace talks occurred, French became the lingua franca of diplomats. (Lingua franca means a language that is used as a common language between people who speak different languages. Note that the phrase lingua franca itself is, in fact, French!)

Here are a few of the French words used even in English-speaking countries for diplomatic matters:

  • detente – improvement in relations
  • fait accompli – something that has already been done
  • attache – a junior officer or a specialist officer
  • communique – a brief public statement summarizing diplomatic meetings

And here are some English words that came from French words:

  • accord – an international agreement
  • consulate – an office in one nation set up for diplomats and visitors from another nation
  • diplomat – an agent who represents a nation and has the power to negotiated trade and peace treaties
  • embassy – the home of an ambassador
  • passport – papers of identification used to travel between different nations
  • protocol – the ceremonial side of diplomacy, and the customs thereof
  • treaty – a formal agreement between nations
  • visa – an endorsement for a person to travel to another nation, often for work or study purposes

Because French had become the language of diplomacy, even more people came to Paris when it was time to create a treaty. Because even more people came to Paris for negotiations, French became even more important to diplomats. It's one of those feedback loops!

Is French still the lingua franca of diplomacy?

Many argue that English has taken over in being the “language of diplomacy,” and it certainly has become the most-spoken second language in the world. In other words, if Indian, Italian, Chinese, and Peruvian software engineers meet together, they probably chat with one another in English. English has become the language of science (it used to be German and, before that, French), and English has become the language of technology and business as well. Because so many people worldwide speak English for these reasons, diplomats tend to be even more familiar with English than with French, so many more meetings are being held in English.

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