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Response to Review of US Consular Representation in Britain Since 1790

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to Professor Bernadette Whelan’s review of my book. I am happy to accept her review and the valid points that she makes. As a non-academic who personally financed this lengthy project, I am particularly pleased by her comments that she regards the book as “a substantial contribution to the history of US diplomacy from 1790 to 2018”; that the “scholarly value of the work is enhanced by the detail on the individual consulates which will make this book essential for anyone doing research in Anglo-American diplomatic relations”; and that the “work stands not only as an invaluable contribution to US diplomatic history in its own right, but provides scholars with new sources, ideas for future research…”.

I had a feeling that Professor Whelan would be pleased with the section dealing with the role of women consuls, especially the early ones, and with the striking photographs of some of them. I am sure that this part of the book influenced the decision by Ambassador Barbara Stephenson, President of the American Foreign Service Association and a strong advocate of women in the Foreign Service, to honour me by writing the foreword.

Professor Whelan and Christoph Strupp are correct about the value of consular reports and the inspection reports therein, which include sometimes very frank reports on the personal qualities of the Consul, his wife, and the consulate staff—both American and locally-employed. When I began looking through these reports in the National Archives II in College Park, Maryland I could not believe the amount and range of detail that they contained. Even now, I would love to have copied the entire contents for a number of consulates. In the event, I decided to get as much as I could for only the 15 consulates that I had decided to investigate. These were chosen to be a representative section of the different regions of the UK. Inevitably, very many others had to be omitted.

Of course, there are always topics that I might have liked to expand on, such as those that Professor Whelan indicates in the references on pp.191–2 about possible difficulties between Consul General Robert John Wynne and Ambassador Whitelaw Reid in 1906. The question of differences, especially social ones, between members of the separate Consular Service and Diplomatic Service merits a book on its own. However, one has to draw the line somewhere and, at 320 pages, my book is relatively short. A useful book on that topic is the memoir of Emily Bax, to which I refer.[1] She was the first English woman to be employed as a secretary in the American Embassy in London, from 1902 until 1914 and had insightful comments to offer on the ‘inferior’ status of consuls, saying: “The Consuls were always touchy about their social status…” [and] “… the Consular Service seemed to suffer badly from inferiority complex, and the Rogers Act, passed after the War, making the two Services interchangeable, was probably at least in part inspired by disgruntled Consuls who wanted their share of the limelight” (p.192).

As I said in the introduction to the book, I hope that it will encourage other researchers to consider the history, presence and activities of US consuls in Britain. There is a wealth of material in the National Archives II, and in personal papers in the United States. Sources are given in my book.

[1] Emily Bax, Miss Bax of the Embassy (Boston, 1939).