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The men who managed Britain's foreign policy

The Foreign Secretary - Neil J. Hart, M.M. Reese

In the late 1970s, the Brtish publisher Terence Dalton commissioned a series on the great offices of state in the British governing system. The goal was to expand general knowledge of them by offering a short, accessible study of the office and the men who held it over the years. Four volumes came out in relatively quick succession, then a lull before Neil Hart's volume, the last of the series, was published in 1987. The best of them (notably the two written by David Kynaston) provide a explanation of the office, its role in the British constitutional structure, and how that role changed over time.

 

Unfortunately Hart's volume doesn't do this. While offering a description of the development of the position from its establishment in 1782 to the aftermath of the Second World War, Hart devotes the majority of his limited space to short studies of the key foreign secretaries and a concise summary of the focus of their policies. While useful, it doesn't provide many insights into the office and the role it has played in relationship to British government or politics. For those interested in an introduction to the history of British foreign policy it is rewarding reading, but in the end it doesn't measure up to the high standards set by the other volumes.