John Charmley is, of course, no stranger to controversy.... How tempting it would be to begin a review of his latest book in this vein.
A Man and an Institution is in reality three books combined into one. It is, first, a contribution to a biography of Sir Maurice Hankey, the first Cabinet Secretary; second, a history of the origins of the Cabinet Office and its development until Hankey’s retirement in 1938; and third, an account of how the Cabinet Office came to be the guardian of official secrecy.
The consular official has often been a derided figure in the historiography of foreign services, often seen as uneducated, involved in commerce, and corrupt, perhaps personified in the figure of ‘Charles Fortnum’ in Graham Greene’s spy novel The Honorary Consul.(1) Such criticisms were often levelled at consuls.