Recommended reading 2017-04-12T16:37:03+00:00

I list below, in categories corresponding roughly to the chapters in my textbook, Diplomacy: Theory and Practice, 5th ed (2015), books that I believe valuable to all students of diplomacy. The list is obviously not exhaustive. See also my Book Reviews and the ‘Further reading’ at the bottom of the ‘Updating’ pages for each chapter of the textbook.

This page also contains sections on ‘Novels by Former Diplomats and Intelligence Officers’ and ‘Political Thrillers and Historical Novels (by other writers)’.

  • Barder, Brian, What Diplomats Do: The Life and Work of Diplomats (2014)
    See this page for my praise for this book.
  • Berridge, G. R., Diplomacy: Theory and Practice, 5th ed (2015)
  • Berridge, G. R., The Counter-Revolution in Diplomacy and Other Essays (2011)
  • Berridge, G. R., M. Keens-Soper and T. G. Otte, Diplomatic Theory from Machiavelli to Kissinger (2001)
  • Berridge, G. R. and Lorna Lloyd, The Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Diplomacy (2012)
  • Hamilton, Keith and Richard Langhorne, The Practice of Diplomacy, 2nd ed (2011)
    A very valuable historical account of the evolution of diplomatic practice but – unlike Anderson’s book – goes back further (to Ancient Greece) and comes up much nearer to the present. I recommend this textbook as one that is complementary to my own.
  • Rana, Kishan S., 21st Century Diplomacy (2011)[review]
  • Rana, Kishan S., Asian Diplomacy (2007)[review]
  • F. Adcock and D. J. Mosley, Diplomacy in Ancient Greece (1975)
    The only full length study of this subject. Extremely valuable.
  • M. S. Anderson, The Rise of Modern Diplomacy, 1450-1919 (1993)
    A solid historical treatment by a former Professor of International History at the LSE.
  • Sonia Anderson, An English Consul in Turkey: Paul Rycaut at Smyrna, 1667-1678 (1989)
    A very illuminating window on mid-seventeenth century consular work; superbly researched.
  • Barber, Peter, Diplomacy: The world of the honest spy (1979).
    An authoritative and richly illustrated, brief history of diplomatic practice from about 1400 to 1900. It was designed to complement an exhibition on this theme held at the British Library (which, regrettably, I missed) but, as the author says in his Preface, presents ‘a coherent survey of the subject which stands quite independently of the exhibition.’
  • G.R. Berridge, Diplomatic Classics: Selected texts from Commynes to Vattel (2004)
  • G. R. Berridge, British Diplomacy in Turkey, 1583 to the present (2009) [reviews]
  • G. R. Berridge, A Diplomatic Whistleblower in the Victorian Era, 2nd ed (2014) [reviews]
  • Adda B. Bozeman, Politics and Culture in International History, 2nd ed (1994)
    A most important book, with very interesting sections in chs. 9 and 13 on Byzantine, Venetian and modern European diplomacy.
  • Cohen, R. and R. Westbrook (eds), Amarna Diplomacy (2000)
  • Frodsham, J. D. (trsl.), The First Chinese Embassy to the West: The journals of Kuo Sung-T’ao, Liu Hsi-Hung and Chang Te-Yi (1974)
  • Gordon A. Craig and Felix Gilbert (eds), The Diplomats, 1919-1939 (1953)
  • Gordon A. Craig and Francis L. Loewenheim (eds), The Diplomats, 1939-1979 (1994)
    Two well-known collections of essays by major writers. Mainly dealing with important ambassadors (esp. the first volume), they also contain chapters dealing with foreign ministries, political figures who made a major impact on the foreign policies of their states, and more general issues.
  • G. P. Cuttino, English Medieval Diplomacy (1985)
    By the author of English Diplomatic Administration, 1259-1339, 2nd ed (1971), published by Oxford Univ. Press. Authoritative.
  • J.G. Dickinson, The Congress of Arras, 1435 (1955)
    An authoritative and most illuminating account of medieval multilateral diplomacy, drawn to my attention by Anne-Brigitte Spitzbarth (University of Lille III).
  • Simon Franklin and Jonathan Shepard (eds), Byzantine Diplomacy: Papers of the Twenty-fourth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, Cambridge March 1990 (1992)
    A comprehensive collection of essays of a uniformly high standard.
  • L. S. Frey and M. L. Frey, The History of Diplomatic Immunity (1999)[Review]
  • P. Gardner and F. B. Jevons, A Manual of Greek Antiquities (1895), ch. XXII (p. 597ff) [Available free at the Internet Archive]
  • Grenville-Murray, E. C., Side-Lights on English Society, or Sketches from Life, Social and Satirical (1881), vol. 1, pp. 151-254 (‘On H.B.M.’s Service’).
    A satirical treatment of British diplomacy in the mid-nineteenth century, often highly amusing. The engravings, however, are disappointing. G-M deals with each position in the diplomatic service according to his view of the order of precedence, starting with ambassadors – and putting ambassadresses last, after messengers and interpreters.[Available free at the Internet Archive]
  • Isobel Grundy, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: Comet of the Enlightenment (1999)
    Bags of detail; an exhaustively researched biography. Excellent value in paperback from first class publisher (OUP).
  • Keith Hamilton, Bertie of Thame: Edwardian Ambassador(1990)
    Lord Bertie (pronounced ‘Bartie’) was British Ambassador to France from 1905 until 1918 and after the First World War was widely held to epitomise the ‘old dipomacy’. This is a formidably researched and polished account of his diplomatic career, focussing chiefly on his Paris embassy, by an author who was a full-time academic before becoming an FCO historian. This is a model for ambassador studies. Keith Hamilton is also co-author of the textbook noted below.
  • Keith Hamilton and Richard Langhorne, The Practice of Diplomacy, 2nd ed (2011)
    A very valuable historical account of the evolution of diplomatic practice but – unlike Anderson’s book – goes back further (to Ancient Greece) and comes up much nearer to the present. I recommend this textbook to my students as one that is complementary to my own.
  • David Jayne Hill, A History of Diplomacy in the International Development of Europe, vol. 1 (1905) [Available free at the Internet Archive]
  • David Jayne Hill, A History of Diplomacy in the International Development of Europe, vol. 2 (1906) [Available free at the Internet Archive]
  • David Jayne Hill, A History of Diplomacy in the International Development of Europe, vol. 3 (1914) [Available free at the Internet Archive]
  • Hopkins, Michael F. et al (eds), The Washington Embassy: British ambassadors to the United States, 1939-77 (2009).
    Eleven good essays with a conclusion by me and John Young.
  • Raymond A. Jones, The Nineteenth Century Foreign Office (1971)
    Ditto.
  • Raymond A. Jones, The British Diplomatic Service 1815-1914 (1983)
    A generally sound, well-organized account.
  • Mario Liverani, International Relations in the Ancient Near East, 1600-1100 BC (2002)
    An immensely authoritative work by the Professor of History of the Ancient Near East and Director of the Inter-University Research Centre for Saharan Archaeology at the University of Rome. It is a revised version of a book originally published in Padua in 1990 as Prestige and Interest.
  • Garrett Mattingly, Renaissance Diplomacy (1955)
    The widely acclaimed classic account of the birth of the resident embassy in Renaissance Italy. A superb book. Should be read in conjunction with Donald Queller’s splendid The Office of Ambassador in the Middle Ages, though this is now out of print (find it second-hand via www.abebooks.com).
  • Markus Mösslang, Chris Manias and Torsten Riotte, British Envoys to Germany 1816-1866: Volume 4, 1851-1866 (Camden Fifth Series) (2011) [buy this book] Markus Mösslang, Torsten Riotte and Hagen Schulze, British Envoys to Germany 1816-1866: Volume 3: 1848-1850: 1848-1850 v. 3 (Camden Fifth Series) (2006)
  • Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, The Turkish Embassy Letters, intro. Anita Desai (Virago ed. 1995)
    Lady Mary was the highly intelligent, adventurous, and unconventional wife of an early eighteenth century British ambassador in Istanbul. These famous letters, extracted from the complete collection, are essential reading for anyone interested in women and diplomacy.
  • David Paull Nickles, Under the Wire: How the Telegraph Changed Diplomacy (2003)
    The first full-length study of this important subject. Recommended by the State Department’s historian.
  • Donald M. Nicol, Byzantium and Venice: A study in diplomatic and cultural relations (1988, PoD edn 1992)
    I started to skim this for passages dealing with Byzantine diplomatic method but got hooked and read it from cover to cover. It manages to be rich in detail without obscuring the main themes. A brilliant and sometimes quite gripping historical narrative. Also particularly good on the role of the Venetian baillie. Devotees of the historical novels of Dorothy Dunnett (esp. the House of Niccolo series) should read this book. Fact really is stranger than fiction.
  • Harold Nicolson, The Evolution of Diplomatic Method (1954)
    A well known account, with which all historians of diplomacy need to be familiar. It is superficial but elegant and sharp, and provocative in a way beloved by those searching for good quotes for exam questions.
  • Peyrefitte, Alain, The Collision of Two Civilizations: The British expedition to China, 1792-4 (1993)
  • D.E. Queller, The Office of Ambassador in the Middle Ages (1967)
    A great book, full of wisdom and learning.
  • William St. Clair, Lord Elgin and the Marbles (1983)
    Elgin was by no means the first or the least scrupulous British ambassador in Istanbul to arrange for the removal of priceless sculptures from the Ottoman Empire, particularly from Greece; he is however the most controversial. This is a lively, entertaining, authoritative, and beautifully written account of this episode. One ends up almost feeling sorry for him.
  • Sarkissian, A. O. (ed), Studies in Diplomatic History and Historiography in honour of G. P. Gooch, C.H. (1962), esp. the ch. by Rohan Butler on ‘Paradiplomacy’
  • Young, John W., Twentieth Century Diplomacy: A case study of British practice, 1963-1976 (2008).
    A first-rate work by one of the leading scholars of British diplomacy and recent diplomatic history. It is unique in so far as it shows how each of the main modes of diplomacy (resident embassies, special missions, bilateral summits, and so on) were employed by one state over one relatively short period. It is also based on the official papers which were the latest to be de-classified at the time of writing.
  • A.N. Yurdusev (ed.), Ottoman Diplomacy (2004)
    A collection of essays on an intriguing subject, well edited by Nuri Yurdusev of the Dept. of International Relations at the Middle Eastern Technical University in Ankara. Contains two of my own pieces, so I could hardly leave this out!
  • Brian Hocking and David Spence (eds), Foreign Ministries in the European Union (2002)
    Essays on 13 MFAs this time, most of which are impressive; some overlap with the first vol.
  • Brian Hocking (ed.), Foreign Ministries: Change and adaptation (1999)
    An important collection of essays on 12 MFAs, though variable in quality. The editor’s introduction is particularly useful.
  • John Dickie, The New Mandarins: How British foreign policy works (2004)
    Useful on the pressure from the ‘young Turks’ to modernise the FO’s IT systems, make recruitment and decision-making more ‘inclusive’, and give more thought to strategic planning and flexibility in resource deployment. Marred by weak and uncritical analysis (Dickie comes close to gushing in his enthusiam for the FO’s bright young things) and almost complete lack of supporting evidence for its claims. When one reads such statements as this: “… when Sir Alex Douglas-Home took over as Foreign Secretary [in 1970] he consigned the [Duncan] report to the archives and turned his attention to what he termed ‘the real world’: his daily study of the Racing Post” (the first untrue and the second a cheap slur) it is as well to remember that Dickie was the diplomatic correspondent of The Daily Mailand not a broadsheet newspaper. Essentially a newspaper ‘supplement’ that updates his first book on the FO
  • Ruth Dudley Edwards, True Brits: Behind Closed Doors (1994)
    Published by BBC Books, the book of the highly successful TV series, which stupidly I omitted to video. Well written and well illustrated.
  • Neilson, Keith and T. G. Otte, The Permanent Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, 1854-1946 (2009).
    I would have preferred to see this organized more thematically (as I said in a review in Diplomacy & Statecraft) but it remains a very valuable work by two eminent historians.
  • T. G. Otte, The Foreign Office Mind: The making of British foreign policy, 1865-1914 (2011)  A massive and authoritative book, which I have reviewed for Diplomacy & Statecraft. However, note that, in contrast to the approach of Zara Steiner in the piece listed immediately below, it includes an account of the attitudes and influence of the diplomats abroad as well as of the senior clerks in the foreign ministry at home.
  • Pope, Laurence, The Demilitarization of American Diplomacy (2014)
  • Rice, Condoleezza, No Higher Honor: A memoir of my years in Washington (2011), ch. 21
  • Zara Steiner, ‘The Foreign Office under Sir Edward Grey, 1905-1914’, in F. H. Hinsley (ed), British Foreign Policy under Sir Edward Grey (1977)
  • Zara Steiner (ed), The Times Survey of Foreign Ministries of the World (1982)
    Published by Times Books, this is expensive but indispensable for any serious student of the ministry of foreign affairs. The intro. by Zara Steiner, author of the highly praised Foreign Office and Foreign Policy, 1898-1914 (now unfortunately o/p), is very instructive and there are essays on 24 MFAs, including three on China and two on Austria. (Others are Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, USSR, UK, USA.) Impressive and highly interesting historical detail; all contributors authorities in their fields. Now a little dated as far as the contemporary picture is concerned but I am not aware that any second ed is contemplated.
  • Strang, Lord, The Foreign Office (1955).
    An illuminating insight into the official mind of the British FO written by a former permanent under-sec.
  • J. Craig Barker, The Abuse of Diplomatic Privileges and Immunities: A Necessary Evil? (1996)
  • J. Craig Barker, The Protection of Diplomatic Personnel (2006)
  • Paul Behrens,  Diplomatic Interference and the Law (2016) [review]
  • Eileen Denza, Diplomatic Law: Commentary on the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 3rd ed (2008)
    The work of a former legal counsellor in the FCO and now visiting professor of law at UCL, Eileen Denza’s book, published by Oxford Univ. Press, provides the definitive text on the VCDR (1961) and subsequent state practice. It is a pity that, as with most law books, the price is outrageous and second-hand copies are difficult if not impossible to find.[ buy this book ]
  • Sir Ivor Roberts (ed), Satow’s Diplomatic Practice, 7th ed (2016)
    See our entry on this in the Dictionary of Diplomacy, although this pre-dated the new edition. The English language manual of the profession, this has now been completely revised and updated. Strongly recommended.
  • Malcolm N. Shaw, International Law, 7th ed (2014), ch. 13
  • See also Primary sources for study.
  • Thomas A. Bailey, The Art of Diplomacy: The American experience (1968)
    A clear and authoritative collection of wise maxims on diplomacy by a well known diplomatic historian. Though its examples are now somewhat dated it is still well worth reading. I stumbled upon it only recently and much enjoyed it. Teachers might cull it in order to fashion exam questions and students pore over it in order to know what to expect: “‘Great powers can afford to lose face.’ Discuss.” (Answer? Yes, but on some issues more than others, and on none continually.)
  • Raymond Cohen, Negotiating across Cultures, 2nd ed (1997)
    The best book on the subject.
  • Percy Cradock, Experiences of China (1994)
    Instructive on, among other things, the Anglo-Chinese negotiations that produced the Hong Kong agreement. Cradock was British amb. in Peking 1978-84 and from 1984 to 1992 the PM’s foreign policy adviser.
  • J. Gross-Stein (ed), Getting to the Table: The process of international pre-negotiation (1989)
  • G. Lakoff and M. Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (1980)
    A well-regarded, accessible book on a complex subject. I found this very instructive for the development of my argument on ‘metaphors of movement’ in the ch. in my textbook on diplomatic momentum.
  • Jeffrey S. Lantis, The Life and Death of International Treaties (2009)
  • William B. Quandt, Camp David: Peacemaking and Politics (1986)
    A detailed insider account of the negotiations in 1977-9 that issued in the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. Also includes an outstanding analysis of the implications for US foreign policy and diplomacy of the presidential electoral cycle (ch. 2), and useful documentary appendices (incl. side letters). Great value in paperback.
  • Dennis Ross, Statecraft (2007)
  • Richard H. Solomon and Nigel Quinney, American Negotiating Behaviour (2010)
  • I. William Zartman and Maureen Berman, The Practical Negotiator (1982)
    Still a useful text. Well organized by stages of negotiation.
  • Anatoly Dobrynin, In Confidence: Moscow’s Ambassador to Six Cold War Presidents (2001)
    Dobrynin was Soviet ambassador to Washington from 1962 until 1986, an exceptionally long period for any diplomat of a major power to occupy the same post. This very important diplomatic memoir was first published by Random House in 1995 and has now been made available in paperback by the University of Washington Press.
  • Douglas Hurd, The Search for Peace (1997)
    A short but shrewd book by a former British diplomat and Conservative foreign secretary.
  • Lorna Lloyd, Diplomacy with a Difference: The Commonwealth office of high commissioner, 1880-2006 (2007)
  • Jane C. Loeffler, The Architecture of Diplomacy: Building America’s Embassies, 2nd ed (2011)
    Highly original, well researched, and extremely interesting book exploring the reasoning behind changes in the design and location of America’s embassies after the Second World War. This is the revised edition.
  • David Mayers, The Ambassadors and America’s Soviet Policy (1995)
    Solid historical treatment, focussing in the main on the opinions and influence of individual ambassadors.
  • David Mayers, FDR’s Ambassadors and the Diplomacy of Crisis: From the rise of Hitler to the end of World War II (2012)
  • Meyer, Christopher, DC Confidential: The controversial memoirs of Britain’s ambassador to the U.S. at the time of 9/11 and the Iraq War(2005) [review ]
  • Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations, rev. by Kenneth W. Thompson and David Clinton (2005)
    Morgenthau’s classic textbook, first published in 1948 and revised for the last time by HJM in 1978. It is interesting to read the high priest of power politics on the subject of diplomacy, on which there is of course quite a lot in this book.
  • David D. Newsom (ed), Diplomacy under a Foreign Flag: When nations break relations (1990)
    Important not least because it is the only full-length study of the institution of the protecting power and its modern elaboration, the interests section. Contains useful case studies.
  • Kishan S. Rana, The 21st Century Ambassador (2006)
    Another splendid example of the wit and wisdom of Ambassador Rana.
  • Kishan S. Rana, Bilateral Diplomacy(2002)[Review]
  • Sharp, Paul and Geoffrey Wiseman (eds), The Diplomatic Corps as an Institution of International Society (2007).
    This book deserves attention for its original focus as well as for the high quality of some of its 13 essays. It is, of course, about the multinational ‘body’ of diplomats in each capital city, not about the diplomatic service.
  • Joseph G. Sullivan (ed), Embassies under Siege (1995)
    A very useful collection of individual experiences from the respected Institute for the Study of Diplomacy in Washington.
  • John W. Young, Twentieth Century Diplomacy (2008), ch. 4
  • Nicholas Atkin, The Forgotten French (2003)
  • G. R. Berridge, Gerald Fitzmaurice (1865-1939), Chief Dragoman of the British Embassy in Turkey (2007) [reviews]
  • G. R. Berridge,  British Diplomacy in Turkey, 1583 to the Present (2009), ch. 4
  • John Dickie, The British Consul: Heir to a great tradition (2007)
  • Martin F. Hertz (ed.), The Consular Dimension of Diplomacy (1983)
  • Luke T. Lee and John Quigley, Consular Law and Practice, 3rd edn (2008)
  • Jan Melissen and Ana Mar Fernández (eds), Consular Affairs and Diplomacy (2011)
  • D. C. M. Platt, The Cinderella Service: British consuls since 1825 (1971)
  • Sydney D. Bailey and Sam Daws, The Procedure of the UN Security Council, 3rd ed (1998)
    Expensive but the holy book on the subject: comprehensive, clear, authoritative, still very recent, nearly 700 pages with extensive appendices and excellent index from first class publisher (Oxford Univ. Press).
  • George Ball, Diplomacy for a Crowded World (1976). A brilliant polemic against summitry.
  • D. Bourantonis and M. Evriviades (eds), A United Nations for the Twenty-First Century (1996)
    A very good collection of essays, though expensive.
  • Raymond Cohen, Theatre of Power: The art of diplomatic signalling (1987)
  • David H. Dunn (ed), Diplomacy at the Highest Level: The evolution of international summitry (1996)
  • Margaret Macmillan, Seize the Hour: When Nixon met Mao (2006)
  • R. Putnam and N. Bayne, Hanging Together: Cooperation and conflict in the seven power summits (pb. ed 2002)
    A very useful collection, not least because most books on summitry appear now to be out of print.
  • David Reynolds, Summits: Six meetings that shaped the twentieth century (2007)
  • Adam Roberts and Benedict Kingsbury (eds), United Nations, Divided World, 2nd ed (1993)
    An excellent collection of essays from OUP.
  • Ronald A. Walker, Multilateral Conferences: Purposeful International Negotiation(2004)[Review]
  • John W. Young, Twentieth Century Diplomacy (2008), chs. 6 and 7
  • Richard T. Arndt, The First Resort of Kings: American cultural diplomacy in the twentieth century (2005)
  • Nicholas J. Cull, The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American propaganda and public diplomacy, 1945-1989 (2008)
  • Nancy Snow and Philip M. Taylor (eds), Routledge Handbook of Public Diplomacy (2008)
  • Philip M. Taylor, Munitions of the Mind: A history of propaganda from the ancient world to the present era, 3rd ed (2003)
  • Geoffrey Wiseman (ed), Isolate or Engage: Adversarial states, US foreign policy, and public diplomacy (2015)
  • Jacob Bercovitch and J. Z. Rubin (eds), Mediation in International Relations new edition (1994)
    A good collection of essays.
  • Chester A. Crocker and others (eds), Herding Cats: Multiparty mediation in a complex world (1999)
  • Louise Diamond and John McDonald, Multi-Track Diplomacy: A systems approach to peace 3rd ed (1996)
    One of the most popular books supporting this approach to mediation. Read in conjunction with Crocker et al, Herding Cats  [review]
  • Richard Holbrooke, To End a War (1998)
    Holbrooke headed the US team that grabbed the mediation in the Balkans and produced the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995. This is the memoir of a muscular mediation. Now available in paperback; good value.
  • W. B. Quandt, Camp David: Peacemaking and politics (1986)
  • Gary Sick, All Fall Down: America’s fateful encounter with Iran (2001)
    Sick was the chief White House official handling the hostage crisis. As a result, this is a valuable primary source on the Algerian mediation that ended it.
  • Saadia Touval, The Peace Brokers: Mediators in the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1948-79 (1982)
  • Saadia Touval, Mediation in the Yugoslav Wars (2001)
    Touval is the scholar most closely associated with the view that successful mediators do not need to be impartial. This is his most recent book.

Novels about diplomacy and espionage written by former officers or – like Graham Greene – those who were still active in an unofficial capacity, have a special authenticity. As well as being enjoyable to those with a taste for the genre, they sometimes provide real insights into the minds and procedures of their crafts.

  • Somerset Maugham (1874-1965)
    Secret Intelligence Service officer in the First World War, first in Switzerland and then in Russia; and in the American OSS (later CIA) in the Second World War. His novel Ashenden, based on his Swiss experience, was adapted for the cinema by Hitchcock as ‘Secret Agent’ (1936) (ODNB; Jeffery, MI6).
    Ashenden
  • Stendhal (1783-1842)Real name Henri Beyle, French consul at the then Austrian imperial port of Trieste only briefly (winter of 1830-1) because the authorities took exception to his liberal views, and then at Civitavecchia near Rome (where the papal authorities were persuaded to swallow similar reservations), 1831 until his death. The publication of the first of his two most famous novels, Le Rouge et le Noir (translated usually The Red and the Black but sometimes Scarlet and Black), had coincided with the announcement of his appointment to Trieste. The second, La Chartreuse de Parme (The Charterhouse of Parma), was written while he was on a prolonged leave from Civitavecchia, of which he was not fond.
    The Red and the Black
    The Charterhouse of Parma
  • Graham Greene (1904-91) Ministry of Information (London), 1940-1; Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)), 1941-4 and thereafter unofficially in part-time service at least until the 1980s while publicly making pro-Soviet statements as a cover (brilliant article by Michael Shelden in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography).
    Stamboul Train
    A Gun for Sale
    The Ministry of Fear
    The Third Man and the Fallen Idol
    The Confidential Agent
    The Quiet American

    Our Man in Havana
    The Honorary Consul
    The Human Factor (Greene’s last major novel and described in the ODNB as his ‘most explicit treatment of the world of espionage’; on the New York Times best-seller list for six months.)
  • Kenneth Benton(1909-99)
    Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) officer from 1937 until 1968; find more information about him here.
    Sole Agent
    Spy in Chancery
    Vengeance in Venice
    Greek Fire
    Twenty-Fourth Level
  • Charles Forsyte (1920-2009)
    Real name: Gordon Charles George Philo. Long-serving and well regarded British intelligence officer. He was appointed with diplomatic cover at three British overseas posts in the decades after the Second World War: Istanbul (third secretary 1954), Ankara (second secretary 1957), and Hanoi (consul-general 1968); and as a liaison officer to the Malaysian government at KL, 1963. Between these postings and after his final foreign tour, he occupied influential positions at Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) headquarters in London until his retirement in 1978. He was in charge of training new entrants to SIS when David Cornwell (‘John le Carré’) switched from the Security Service (MI5) to SIS (MI6) in 1960. Diplomatic Death and Murder with Minarets are set in the British Consulate-General in Istanbul and the British diplomatic apartments complex in Ankara respectively, both of which he evidently knew well. The first of these novels is much the best. Philo was a keen amateur magician, and – astonishing to report – after his death his private notebook on the subject was found by Marco Pusteria in a second-hand bookshop in Cromer on the north Norfolk coast (FFB: The Detective Novels of Charles Forsyte, 17 October 2014; Marco Pusteria, ‘Spies, Magic, Manuscripts’, 20 July 2013;  The Times [obituary], 18 March 2009;  Foreign Office List, subsequently Diplomatic Service List).
    Diplomatic Death (1961)
    Diving Death (1962), published in the US under the title Dive into Danger
    Double Death (1965)
    Murder with Minarets (1968)
  • John le Carré (1931-)
    Real name David Cornwell. Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) agent with cover as second secretary in the British embassy in Bonn in the early 1960s and then briefly as a ‘political consul’ (his own description) in the large consulate-general in Hamburg (Author’s official website ; FO List 1965; Adam Sisman, John le Carré: The Biography; Observer Profile). I have reviewed the Sisman biography here.
    The ‘Smiley’ novels:
    Call for the Dead
    A Murder of Quality
    The Spy Who Came in from the Cold
    The Looking Glass War
    Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
    The Honourable Schoolboy
    Smiley’s People
    The Secret Pilgrim
    And others by le Carré:
    A Small Town in Germany
    The Mission Song
    The Tailor of Panama
    A Perfect Spy
    Absolute Friends
    Our Game
    he Night Manager
    The Russia House
    The Constant Gardener
    Our Kind of Traitor
  • Stella Rimington
    Former Director-General of MI5 and first to be publicly named. See her official website and autobiography.
    The Geneva Trap
    Present Danger
    Dead Line
    At Risk
    Illegal Action
    Secret Asset
  • Lawrence Durrell (1912-90)
    Junior Press Officer British Emb Cairo, 1941; Press Attaché at British Information Office, Alexandria, 1942-5; Director of PR, Overseas Information Service on Rhodes, 1945-7; British Council lecturer, Cordoba Argentina, 1947-9; 1st Secretary (Information), British Embassy Belgrade, 1949-52; Press Adviser to British colonial administration in Cyprus, 1954-6.
    Bitter Lemons  Not a novel but the best of what has been described as his ‘foreign residence genre’, this one set in Cyprus as the troubles of the then British colony started in the mid-1950s. The chapter on ‘How to Buy a House’ is a real page-turning account of the negotiating skills employed on Durrell’s behalf by the Turkish Cypriot estate agent (realtor) Sabri Tahir.
    The following slender volumes are the collections of Durrell’s hilarious short stories, narrated through the voice of the fictional diplomat ‘Antrobus’. Justly famous, they were inspired chiefly by Durrell’s time at the British embassy in Belgrade:
    Esprit de Corps: Sketches from Diplomatic Life
    Stiff Upper Lip
    Sauve Qui Peut
    They can also be obtained collected, in whole or in part, in one volume:
    The Best of Antrobus
    Antrobus Complete
  • Olivia Manning (1908-80)
    Married to a British Council lecturer (‘cultural diplomat’). Olivia Manning’s six novels set in Second World War Roumania, Greece, and the Middle East, now collectively known as the Fortunes of War [the Balkan Trilogy plus the Levant Trilogy] and adapted for television in 1987, are regarded as classics. I was interested to see in the very full piece on Manning in Wikipedia that she and her husband lived for a short time in Bucharest in early 1940 with John Hugh (‘Adam’) Watson, 3rd Secretary in the British Legation and later quite a well known writer on diplomacy.
    The Balkan Trilogy
    The Levant Trilogy
    Fortunes of War
  • Alan Judd
    Real name Alan Edwin Petty. Widely believed by spook-watchers to be a former senior officer in MI6, a suspicion I recall forming myself when some years ago I read his Quest for C: Sir Mansfield Cumming and the Founding of the British Secret Service (1999). The vagueness of his entries in the Diplomatic Service List between the mid-1970s and mid-1990s is something of a give-away. The only number that says anything about him other than his rank (entering as 2nd Secretary and leaving as Counsellor) and his attachment to the ‘F.C.O.’ is the one that notes his posting as ‘Consul (Economic)’ at the British Consulate-General in Johannesburg in 1980. Hmmm. He made a hit with his first novel, A Breed of Heroes, which appeared shortly after this interlude in South Africa. This piece provides useful background on ‘Alan Judd’ and his many articles in The Spectator can be read here.
    A Breed of Heroes
    Short of Glory
    The Noonday Devil
    Tango
    The Devil’s Own Work
    Legacy
    The Kaiser’s Last Kiss
    Dancing with Eva 
    Uncommon Enemy
    Inside Enemy
  • Anne Telscombe
    Real name Marie Dobbs (née Catton). She was the wife of Joe Dobbs, who served at the British embassy in Moscow for 14 years over four different postings between 1947 and 1974 and was regarded as Britain’s leading Kremlinologist during the Cold War. ‘Anne Telscombe’ was an Australian journalist who fetched up in Moscow and collaborated with Dobbs (then an ‘Information Officer’) on the embassy’s Russian-language weekly, Britansky Soyuznik (The British Ally) until this feared organ of British propaganda was slowly strangled by the Soviet authorities and expired at the end of 1948 (V. O. Pechatnov, ‘The Rise and Fall of Britansky Soyuznik’, Historical Journal, 41(1), 1998). After they married and she could no longer work she took to writing novels based on their postings. I am grateful to Jane Barder for alerting me to this novelist.
    Miss Bagshot Goes to Moscow
    The Listener
    Miss Bagshot Goes to Tibet
  • Charles Cumming
    Cumming had a brief encounter with MI6 when an attempt was made to recruit him  as a young graduate and has since established himself as a leading writer of spy thrillers. I have just finished A Foreign Country, which is a real page-turner. Read more about him here.
    A Spy By Nature
    The Hidden Man
    The Spanish Game
    Typhoon
    The Trinity Six
    A Foreign Country
  • André Brink
    A well known South African novelist.
    The Ambassador
  • Dorothy Dunnett
    The late Dorothy Dunnett was a terrific historical novelist. I preferred the House of Niccolo series, set in Europe in the late fifteenth century and dealing with merchant banking and international political intrigue. They are complicated but quite gripping; best read in the published order as below. See more about the author and her books here.
    ‘The Lymond Chronicles’, published between 1961 and 1975:
    1. The Game of Kings
    2. Queens’ Play
    3. The Disorderly Knights
    4. Pawn in Frankincense
    5. The Ringed Castle
    6. Checkmate
    The ‘House of Niccolo’ series, published between 1986 and 2000:
    1. Niccolò Rising
    2. Spring of the Ram
    3. Race of Scorpions
    4. Scales of Gold
    5. The Unicorn Hunt
    6. To Lie with Lions
    7. Caprice and Rondo
    8. Gemini
  • Paul Theroux
    The London Embassy
  • Philip Kerr
    If you are an admirer of Raymond Chandler, you will like this author. Someone has said that in the tautness of his dialogues and the richness of his similes, he ‘out Chandlers Chandler’. I am a great fan, especially of his novels about the left-leaning Berlin Kripo detective turned private eye in the Nazi period Bernie Gunther, the first three of which are also published collectively under the title ‘Berlin Noir’. These are the nine Bernie Gunther novels:
    1. March Violets
    2. The Pale Criminal
    3. A German Requiem
    Berlin Noir {NB Includes the first 3}
    4. The One From The Other
    5. A Quiet Flame
    6. If The Dead Rise Not
    7. Field Grey
    8. Prague Fatale
    9. A Man Without Breath
  • Alan Furst
    1.   Night Soldiers
    2.   Dark Star 
    3.  The Polish Officer
    4.   The World at Night
    5.   Red Gold
    6.   Kingdom of Shadows
    7.   Blood of Victory
    8.   Dark Voyage
    9.   The Foreign Correspondent
    10. The Spies of Warsaw
    11. Spies of the Balkans
    12. Mission to Paris