Formerly a university teacher, I am now a freelance writer specialising in the theory and practice of diplomacy from the earliest times until the present. As well as hoping to encourage the study of diplomacy, this site provides periodic updating of my textbook (see immediately below). This page contains some news and views. The contents of the rest of the site can be navigated via the column on the left-hand side.

Diplomacy: Theory and Practice

5th edition
(Palgrave-Macmillan: Basingstoke and New York, 2015)

Read more about this book on the publisher’s website.

Citations 2.5 times the ‘discipline’ average in 2018 (Bookmetrix)


berridge diplomacy 5th

From the back cover: ‘Probably the most prolific contemporary writer on diplomacy is Professor Geoff R. Berridge … Each of his many books is impeccably written and full of insights into the fascinating formation of modern diplomacy” (Robert William Dry, New York University, USA, and Chairman of AFSA’s Committee on the Foreign Service Profession and Ethics); “I discovered Geoff Berridge’s book on diplomacy after serving as a diplomat for over 30 years. It is well-researched, sophisticated, inspiring and, where the subject invites it, suitably ironic” (Dr Max Schweizer, Head of Foreign Affairs and Applied Diplomacy, ZHAW School of Management and Law, Switzerland); “Berridge’s Diplomacy is an enlightening journey that takes the student, the practitioner and the general reader from the forefront to the backstage of current diplomatic practice. The thoroughly updated text – also enriched with a stimulating new treatment of embassies – is an invaluable guide to the stratagems and outcomes, continuities and innovations, of a centuries’ long process” (Arianna Arisi Rota, Professor of History of Diplomacy, University of Pavia, Italy).

Diplomacy and Secret Service

A short introduction

(DiploFoundation: 2019)

Invitations to Diplomacy series

Available to purchase on the ISSUU platform here

Updating by chapter is available here

The front cover shows the building used as its headquarters by the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) since 1994. Inspired in design by Art Deco, Mayan and Aztec architecture, it is sometimes described mockingly as ‘Legoland’ but more commonly referred to as ‘Vauxhall Cross’. This is because of its location adjacent to the major crossroads of this name in the Vauxhall district of south-west London; it is also close to Vauxhall Bridge over the River Thames. The building has served as a backdrop for a number of James Bond films. Photograph (cropped slightly for design purposes) by Jim Bowen, 22 November 2007, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic.

If at first you don’t succeed …

lie, lie and lie again. This is the maxim that, as usual, guided Boris Johnson’s behaviour in the House of Commons last night. His aim was to get a deal with the EU (it isn’t), talks with Brussels were making progress (they are not), and he doesn’t want an election (he does). MPs challenged him repeatedly on the first two lies last night and all he did was to tell them again. Trust in Britain’s prime minister and Brexit cult leader is at rock bottom and last night even a significant number of members of his own party deserted him, including the former Chancellor, Philip Hammond, and Winston Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames. With a larger majority than at first expected, a cross-party alliance of MPs seized control of the order of business of the House of Commons in order to allow time for debate on an anti-no-deal bill today, Wednesday 4 September.
The ‘sham’ negotiations that the Johnson government are engaged in with Brussels are, by definition, an abuse of diplomacy for domestic political purposes, and it is disappointing that a former British diplomat, David Frost, is lending himself to this transparent chicanery. On leaving the Diplomatic Service in 2013, Frost became CEO of the Scotch Whisky Association but surrendered this position to become special adviser to Johnson not long after he became foreign secretary in 2016; the relationship was revived after Johnson became prime minister. It is also a great pity that the EU must play along with these sham negotiations in order to avoid being blamed too easily by Johnson for a no-deal Brexit. The tactic of talking up the talks, which I discuss in my textbook (pp. 63-4), is only suitable to a genuine negotiation in which success at some stage is known to be near but where there is a danger that, for some reason or other, it might be deflected or sabotaged.

READ the incomparable John Crace, ‘Clown Prince Johnson …

September 4th, 2019|

Johnson cannot be trusted

Boris Johnson, British prime minister and Brexit cult leader, encouraged by that poor man’s Niccolò Machiavelli, Dominic Cummings, is currently attempting to shore up his perilous position in parliament and take Britain out of the EU on 31 October by lying again. He wants a deal, he says, and Brussels is already showing signs of willingness to change the agreement made with his predecessor, Theresa May. Don’t pass a law preventing him from leading Britain out without a deal, he begs MPs, because this will undercut his bargaining position with the EU. This would be true were the EU to believe that he really does want a deal, or that if he did it would be one he could sell to the cult members, but why should it? Why should anyone believe a notorious serial liar? Max Hastings, his former employer, put it best of all when he wrote that ‘Johnson would not recognise truth, whether about his private or political life, if confronted by it in an identity parade.’

September 3rd, 2019|

Need a thesis topic? Security at British diplomatic posts

Diplomatic security is the term now usually preferred to ‘diplomatic protection’ for the steps taken by states to safeguard the fabric of their diplomatic and consular missions, the lives of their diplomatic and consular officers, and the integrity of their communications. It is an important subject but neglected until the appearance this year of a book that I have just reviewed for H-Net. The chapter in this book that deals with British practice leaves some questions unanswered and some potentially valuable documentary sources overlooked, so it occurred to me that a student looking for a thesis topic, and with ready access to the National Archives in London, might look at them for inspiration. I make some suggestions at the top of the ‘Need a thesis topic?’ page here.

August 17th, 2019|

EU negotiations with Johnson a waste of time

Even were Johnson’s new Tory government to be serious about negotiating a new Brexit deal with the EU before 31 October – which anyone who cares to look can see it almost certainly isn’t – it would be a waste of the EU’s time. Apart from the fact that Brussels has made it abundantly clear that it will not entertain this, it also knows perfectly well that Johnson is untrustworthy; indeed, in the publicly expressed opinion of both the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and the former Tory attorney-general, Dominic Grieve, he is a complete charlatan. Furthermore, his top adviser and de facto chief executive Dominic Cummings – described by former Tory prime minister David Cameron as a ‘career psychopath’ – is contemptuous both of politicians as a class and civil servants (including diplomats) as a class. As for Johnson’s new cabinet, this is stuffed with liars, light-weights and nasties, among them a worthless foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, who had only four months’ previous ministerial experience in any department prior to his appointment.

If the EU were to refuse to negotiate with such people, it would certainly be blamed by the Johnson government for ‘forcing’ Britain to crash out. But, were the EU instead to agree to negotiate, it would be blamed for this anyway; for negotiations would inevitably fail – whether because Johnson would only go through the motions or because, consequent on some last-minute flirtation with sanity, he were to decide to take them seriously but run up against the over-tight deadline. Why, then, should the EU waste its time when it has equally if not more pressing items on its agenda? It should sit on its hands and let Britain’s political drama play out. Sooner rather than later, and by one means or another, Britain will once more have a responsible government with a genuine mandate from the people – and, with any luck, still be an influential member of the European Union, albeit the poorer because of the billions lost in investment to the Brexit threat and squandered on ‘no deal preparations’.

July 30th, 2019|

Who appoints the ambassador?

British foreign secretary and Tory leadership hopeful, Jeremy Hunt, yesterday told Foreign Office staff that ‘the UK government alone will determine appointments based on our national interest alone.’ This was a key line in a pep talk he clearly thought required by the demoralizing circumstances in which Sir Kim Darroch felt obliged to announce his resignation as British Ambassador at Washington in early July 2019. But it puts a gloss on the true position that reveals that, in making this statement, Hunt had more in mind the votes of the 160,000 Tory voters in the current leadership contest than the effect on his more savvy diplomats. For diplomatic law is unambiguous on the sensible point that new ambassadors can never be appointed without the prior agreement of their intended hosts: ‘The sending State must make certain that the agrément of the receiving State has been given for the person it proposes to accredit as head of the mission to that State’ (Art. 4.1, Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961). In order to avoid the embarrassment of a public rebuff, in practice such agreement is customarily sought quietly before any individual is publicly named. It is true that, since it would rarely be in the ‘national interest’ of the sending state to try to send abroad an unwanted ambassador, strictly speaking Hunt’s statement is correct. But his statement deliberately gave the impression to the nationalist-minded members of the Tory Party that Britain can send out any ambassador it likes. This is definitely not the case.

Since Britain will have a new prime minister in a little over a week, it would in principle make sense for this person to have the decisive say over the appointment to such an important post as Washington. But the case for this disintegrates when it is remembered (a) that this is likely to be Boris Johnson, who was the worst foreign secretary I can recall, and (b) that he is unlikely to be in office for very long. Theresa May is known to be concerned about her legacy. Getting Trump’s agreement to the appointment of a first class professional diplomat to the Washington embassy before Johnson gets into No. 10 would be at least one important achievement by which she would be remembered.

July 12th, 2019|