I list below, in categories corresponding roughly to the chapters in my textbook, Diplomacy: Theory and Practice, 6th ed (2022), books (and a few articles) that I believe valuable to all students of diplomacy. Those dealing with embassy substitutes, such as representative offices, are included under ‘Modern bilateral diplomacy’. The list is obviously not exhaustive. I have tried to restrict myself to recommending my own books to categories where I think other works are a bit thin on the ground. 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)’.
Foreign ministries have not been a popular subject for study in recent years, evidence of which is the presence of only one chapter on them (out of a total of 49) in The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy. This accounts for the relative brevity of the following list, the prominence in it of titles chiefly for the historian, and the inclusion of the chapter on the foreign ministry from my own textbook.
Berridge, G. R., Diplomacy: Theory and Practice (2015; new edition forthcoming January 2022). See Chapter 1, The Foreign Ministry, and the numerous articles listed in ‘Further reading’ at the end.
Cooper, Andrew F. et al, The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy (2013). The only chapter on the foreign ministry in this generally disappointing collection (Chapter 5) is a rather bland if knowledgeable treatment of the subject by former British diplomat Sir Jeremy Greenstock. However, the index entry for ‘foreign ministries’ directs the reader to pages in other chapters that are also of interest.
A Democratic Staff Report prepared for the use of the Committee on Foreign Relations United States Senate, Diplomacy in Crisis: The Trump Administration’s decimation of the State Department, 28 July 2020. Hard-hitting but certainly not just a polemic: clearly organized, and authoritatively supported with 274 footnotes full of references for further reading. Find here.
Hocking, Brian (ed.), Foreign Ministries: Change and adaptation (1999). An important collection of essays on 12 MFAs, though variable in quality and now dated. The editor’s introduction is particularly useful.
Hocking, Brian 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 earlier volume.
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.
Otte, T. G., 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). This is an attack on the US State Department even before Donald Trump got his hands on it. Pope was a US scholar-diplomat. See Chs. 2–3.
Rana, Kishan S., 21st Century Diplomacy: A practitioner’s guide (2011). See Ch. 6 for a very knowledgeable account of the subject.
Rana, Kishan S., Asian Diplomacy: The foreign ministries of China, India, Japan, Singapore and Thailand (2007). A rare comparative exercise; very illuminating.
Rice, Condoleezza, No Higher Honor: A memoir of my years in Washington (2011). Previously National Security Advisor, Rice was Secretary of State, 2005–9. Ch. 21 contains interesting reflections on the State Department, including policy planning.
Steiner, Zara, ‘The Foreign Office under Sir Edward Grey, 1905-1914’, in F. H. Hinsley (ed), British Foreign Policy under Sir Edward Grey (1977). A piece by one of the greatest authorities on the subject.
Steiner, Zara (ed), The Times Survey of Foreign Ministries of the World (1982). Indispensable for any serious student of the ministry of foreign affairs. The introduction by Zara Steiner, author of the highly praised Foreign Office and Foreign Policy, 1898–1914, is very instructive and there are essays on 24 foreign ministries, including three on China and two on Austria. (The others are those of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, USSR, UK, and USA.) Impressive and highly interesting historical detail; all contributors authorities in their fields. Now dated as far as the contemporary picture is concerned.
Strang, Lord, The Foreign Office (1955). An illuminating insight into the official mind of the British foreign ministry written by one of its former permanent under-secretaries.
Many foreign ministries have their own websites, some of which provide at least a list of the different departments (sometimes even an organization chart), while a few go so far as to give a history of the ministry. The back copies of State Magazine, available via the US State Department’s website, are also useful.