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.
As a field, diplomatic history is not generally known for its conceptual adventurousness. To resort to stereotypes, if representatives of the historical profession were invited to a party, the diplomatic historian would be the stiff, bespectacled man in a suit examining his host’s bookshelves in the corner while the cultural historians smoked weed in the kitchen.
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.