John Dickie writes the first history of the role of the British Consul, a political position that has always played an important part in world affairs. In the fifteenth century, the Consul functioned as a mercantile officer, smoothing the way for British traders in foreign ports. Today, the Consul handles the aftermath of terrorist attacks and natural disasters.
Dickie begins with the appointment's early days of service with such trading houses as the Muscovy Company, the Levant Company, and the East India Company, and he concludes with the modern era, in which the Consul has had to face challenges ranging from the fallout of the package-holiday revolution and international protest rallies to overzealous sports fans and backpackers. Dickie recounts Mao Tse-tung's Red Guard attack on the British Legation in 1967, an event recalling the Boxers' siege almost seventy years earlier. He reveals how the Consuls coped with the traumatic experience of the use of British citizens as human shields by Saddam Hussein in 1990 and with the rescue of British hostages from the Moscow theater seized by Chechen rebels in 2002.
The British Consul makes brilliant use of archival materials and the author's own fund of experience in the field. His acerbic wit and entertaining anecdotes illuminate the little-known aspects of an invaluable service that has played a fascinating and multifaceted role on the world stage.