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.


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).

The Diplomacy of
Ancient Greece

A short introduction

(DiploFoundation: 2018)

Invitations to Diplomacy series

Available on the ISSUU platform here

The Diplomacy of Ancient Greece

The background to the front cover shows (slightly cropped for design purposes) the marble stele on which was inscribed the treaty made between Athens and the southern Italian city of Rhegion at some time before 440 BCE. When the treaty was renewed in 433/2 BCE, the preamble in the first eight lines was re-cut. The full image can be seen here. The stele is held by the Elgin Collection in the British Museum. Photograph: © Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 2.5.

New! The Diplomacy of Ancient Greece

My latest book, The Diplomacy of Ancient Greece: A short introduction, has just been published on the ISSUU platform here. With illustrations and plentiful guidance for further reading, it is the first title to appear in Diplo’s new series, ‘Invitations to Diplomacy’. This is aimed at general readers, as well as students of diplomacy with limited prior knowledge of the particular subject concerned. The Diplomacy of Ancient Greece is priced at only 6 Euros.

December 10th, 2018|

Q. Which London embassy needs 13 cultural attachés?

Answer: The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. Why? Read on.

The employment of the Saudi consulate-general and consul-general’s residence in Istanbul in the horrifying murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in early October is now notorious. This has been followed by the revelation in a Channel 4 News report on 3 December (‘Saudi activist: “One tweet is enough to ruin your life”’) that the Saudi Embassy in Washington has been routinely intimidating Saudi students studying in the United States who voice criticisms of their government; for example, by severing grants, refusing to renew passports, and urging them to return home to an unknown fate. In these circumstances, the size, profile and declared aims of other Saudi missions warrant a closer look. A case in point is the Mayfair-based Saudi Embassy in London.

This embassy is enormous. According to the latest London Diplomatic List, it has the third largest diplomatic staff of any embassy in the British capital. With 99 diplomatic officers, it is exceeded only by China (116) and the United States (181). In fourth position, some way behind, is the German Embassy (77), which is followed by France (68), Japan and Brazil (each with 61), Canada (60) and Russia (50). There is another striking feature of the Saudi Embassy: it has no less than 13 cultural attachés. This puts it, in this regard, virtually in a class of its own. Its nearest rival is France, with nine cultural attachés, followed by China with six and Italy with three. As for the other London embassies, most either have no cultural attaché at all, just one, or one officer who wears this hat along with another such as press officer. What do all of these Saudi cultural attachés do? Helpfully, the section of which they are members, the ‘Diplomatic Office of the Cultural Bureau’ (aka the ‘Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau’ or SACB), which has separate offices in Cheswick High Road, answers this question in some detail on its own website. From this it is abundantly clear that its ‘core functions’ are exclusively concerned with university-level educational relationships, and most are unexceptionable. However, in so far as this involves Saudi students studying at British universities, of which there were over 8,000 at the last count, it is also apparent that the SACB holds them in an iron grip. Its website makes no bones about this (pun intended). It’s one thing to require reports at the end of every semester on the progress of these students at British universities, and to ‘urge’ them to participate in cultural activities that ‘do not conflict with Islamic faith and Saudi traditions’; but, in the circumstances, the further and last listed of the Bureau’s ‘core functions’ should ring an alarm bell. For this is stated to be the ‘supervision and monitoring of the activities of Saudi students and their clubs [emphasis added].’ No wonder Saudi Arabia’s cultural attachés represent, on a rough estimate, almost a quarter of all diplomatic officers of this class in the British capital.

December 10th, 2018|

The Emirates, SIS – and Brexit

Like many others, I heaved a sigh of relief when I learned that Matthew Hedges, the Durham University PhD student who was disgracefully imprisoned for six months in Abu Dhabi and then sentenced to life imprisonment on a trumped up charge of spying for the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), had been pardoned and allowed to return home. But I had already begun to wonder how on earth he could have been arrested and thrown into prison on such a charge in the first place. All right, his research topic was in a politically sensitive area; however, many scholars conduct investigations of this sort in authoritarian regimes and are left undisturbed; some are even assisted in the hope that they might return home with a more favourable view of their hosts. I speak from personal experience of research in apartheid South Africa, also, as it happens, as a Durham University PhD student in the same department as Matthew Hedges. What is even more surprising about his treatment in the Emirates, however, is that he was accused of working for SIS.

This accusation is surprising for two reasons. First, because as pointed out by Martin Chuvlov, Middle East Correspondent of The Guardian and winner of the Orwell prize for journalism in 2015, the UK has been one of the closest allies of the UAE for a long time, not least in ‘security and intelligence matters.’ (According to the London Diplomatic List, as at 7 November 2018, more than half of the UAE’s 33-strong embassy to the UK consists of military and ‘police’ attachés.) Will Tricks, since 2014 one of the closest aides of the Emirati ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayhed (‘MbZ’), is a former SIS station chief in Abu Dhabi. So why was the case ever allowed to become such a major diplomatic incident? Second, in his outstanding book, Intelligence Power in Peace and War, published in 1996, Michael Herman, a former senior production manager at GCHQ, revealed that there was ‘a tacit professional recognition that [intelligence] cooperation is not necessarily a bar to continued targeting of each other’s government, defence forces and the like’ (p. 211). Therefore, even were Hedges to have been an agent run by an SIS officer in the British Embassy in Abu Dhabi, the professional sin was hardly a great one and, from a friend, should have incurred no more than a rap on the knuckles.

The explanation for the brutal treatment of Matthew Hedges – apart from the natural reflexes of an authoritarian regime that pays no more than lip service to academic freedom – probably has two parts. First, a desire on the part of the UAE to show that it won’t be pushed around; the shock announcement of the life sentence came shortly after pressure was being mounted on the UAE-Saudi axis to halt air strikes in Yemen. Second, a weakening of the UK-UAE relationship on Theresa May’s watch, partly because personal ties count for the Emirati, reports Chuvlov, and MbZ doesn’t get on with May in the way that he did with David Cameron, and – more worryingly – partly because Britain, paralysed by Brexit and probably doomed to leave the EU next March, is already seen by the UAE, as well as others, as an increasingly irrelevant player in international affairs. (Compare the risible conclusion of James Rogers, calculated via a quantitative analysis of 35 ‘indicators’, that the UK is ‘the world’s second most capable country’ after the United States.) Britain will soon cease to be ‘a leading member of the EU’ and also be economically weaker, developments that will also call into question its continuing entitlement to a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. As the permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office, Sir Simon MacDonald, said on ‘Inside the Foreign Office’, the very good recently broadcast BBC2 television series, Brexit means that Britain will have ‘to work harder’ to get its way in the future, which also means working harder – and with fewer resources – to bring home citizens in distress abroad. (Ponder that, Brexit supporters.) The UAE is also the sort of regime to which Britain will have to bend the knee even further in order to secure post-Brexit transition period trade deals. In this connection, it’s interesting that on the same TV programme just mentioned, Britain’s ambassador to Brazil reported that Brazilians were quite pleased with Brexit because Britain would be so desperate for trade deals that they would be bound to get good terms from London. So much for Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit ‘sunlit uplands’ for ‘Global Britain’.

December 2nd, 2018|

The inevitability of a bad Brexit deal for Britain

Predictably enough, the hard right-wing nationalists in Parliament – led by the Member for the Eighteenth Century, Jacob-Rees Mogg and the Member for the Second World War, Boris Johnson, in alliance with the Member for the Battle of the Boyne, Arlene Foster – are pounding their chests and claiming that Theresa May’s government could have got a much better deal on Brexit. As a result, they are demanding either that she go back to Brussels and do better, or leave the field to them. What they either don’t understand (like James Rogers of the Henry Jackson Society) or choose to overlook is that, as I was taught many years ago, ‘power is as power does’; in other words, that power is a relative concept – it is only revealed when its potential is put to the test in particular relationships, in the case of Brexit a negotiation lasting for 17 months between Britain and the EU. And what these have revealed is that a united EU is far more powerful than a divided UK. I conclude, therefore, that in reality it is highly unlikely that the Brextremists could have done any better, and would also be unable to do any better in the future. And let’s not forget that their own men were actually in charge of the specially created Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) through the whole negotiation. I hasten to add that the point I am making here should in no way be interpreted as support for Mrs May’s deal. I find myself thinking along the same lines as Jonathan Freedland.


November 24th, 2018|

The Khashoggi affair and consular law

Some points of law concerning this sickening and profoundly worrying case need clearing up. I am not a diplomatic lawyer and I have no knowledge of any relevant recent case law but I have had occasion in the past to brood on the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961) and its sister Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (1963). In light of my knowledge of these treaties and the thinking that went into them by the jurists on the International Law Commission, I offer the following thoughts:

1. The Saudi Consulate-General in Istanbul, like all other consular and diplomatic missions, is not ‘sovereign territory’, although this is being constantly repeated. This is a complete myth. The inviolability of such premises is not justified in international law on these grounds but on the argument that without inviolability – especially in unfriendly states – diplomats and consuls could not fearlessly discharge their proper functions: ‘the purpose of such privileges and immunities is not to benefit individuals but to ensure the efficient performance of functions by consular posts on behalf of their respective States’, VCCR (1963), preamble.

2.  ‘Consular functions’ (see Berridge and Lloyd, The Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Diplomacy, 3rd ed., pp. 76-7 – unfortunately not available in Arabic) are not generally supposed to include the seizure, torture, killing, dismemberment and secret disposal of the body parts of a citizen. Put another way, a chief consular function is to assist nationals in distress, not cause it in the most grotesque manner imaginable.

3.  Compared to diplomatic premises, the inviolability of consular premises (irrespective of the status of the mission), is qualified in a very significant respect: they may be entered by the authorities of the receiving state without the express consent of the head of the mission ‘in case of fire or other disaster requiring prompt protective action’ (my emphasis added), VCCR (1963), art. 31(2). The wording I have italicized here is interesting. I would have thought that a strong legal case could be made that Jamal Khashoggi’s fate in the Saudi Consulate-General was a ‘disaster’ because it threatened first himself, his family and friends, second journalistic freedom, and third, the minor matter of the international order – as subsequently remarked by the UN Secretary-General. Therefore, having come to the notice of the Turkish authorities, they would have been legally entitled as well as morally obliged to force their way into the consulate and arrest everyone inside, even if they were too late to save Khashoggi.

4.  The private residence of the head of a consular mission – in contrast to the head of a diplomatic mission – has no inviolability whatsoever, since it is not included in the definition of ‘consular premises’ contained in the VCCR (1963); compare art. 1.1(j) here with art. 1(i) of the VCDR (1961). So with even stronger legal justification, the Turkish authorities could have seized it immediately.

5.  In matters not connected with the exercise of their functions, consular officers, in further contrast to diplomats, might be called on to give evidence at judicial or administrative proceedings, VCCR (1963), art. 44.

6.  In the case of a ‘grave crime’, and in yet further contrast with a diplomat, a consular officer might be liable to arrest or detention pending trial; required to appear in court in person, if facing a criminal charge; and be imprisoned in execution of a final judgement, VCCR, art. 41.

In light of points 5 and 6 above, it is not surprising that the Saudi Consul-General did a runner. The Turks would, of course, be entitled to seek his extradition, if only to give evidence; according to one report I have read, he was himself threatened with death if he did not ‘shut up’.

October 18th, 2018|