The Consular institution is viewed by academics and practitioners alike as the poor sibling of diplomacy. At worst they have been portrayed in literature as alcoholic self-pitying individuals languishing in an isolated backwater. Recent serious academic workshops have examined the role of the Consul and Consulates over the longue durée, but no studies currently exist on the lowly consul in the Cold War context. However, research into the work of these overlooked 'poor relations' offers the chance of new perspectives in the field of Cold War studies, exploring their diplomatic role in representing their country’s interests in far flung and unexpected places, support for particular diaspora communities and itinerant travellers in unexpected difficulties. The consulate also offered ‘diplomacy on the cheap’ for those nations who could not afford full diplomatic missions in capital cities. Mapping a country’s consular representatives during the Cold War can therefore shine a light on not just the very edges of state sovereignty, but also identified areas of particular political and commercial interest. These were not neutral selections. In the Cold War era, the position of consul often served as a cover for front line intelligence gathering: For example, the British consul in Chiengmai, Northern Thailand, in the mid-1950s, was instructed to pay close attention to the Burmese Army’s campaign against Kuomingdang (KMT) remnants operating across the Thai/Burmese border. Disturbing reports filtered back to the Foreign Office in London that the KMT insurgents were being supported by airdrops from ‘forces in Taiwan’, with the active assistance of a serving US army colonel. In Hanoi, where both the British and French maintained consulates throughout the Vietnam War, consular reports from both nations found their way to Washington (which had little success in human intelligence throughout the conflict). Some were remnants of colonialism and existed primarily to protect the interests of settlers. In other instances, consular representatives doubled as journalists or trade delegations.
This edited volume seeks to highlight the diplomatic and intelligence work of consul and consulates in the Cold War context between 1949 and 1991, using case studies of the ‘micro’ to shed light on the ‘macro’ geopolitical picture. The volume will include analysis of representatives of ‘traditional’ Cold War antagonists (such as the British and French consulates in Hanoi, North Vietnam, post 1954; and in Maymo, Burma, in the mid-1950s as the country emerged as a leading proponent of Afro-Asian solidarity and supported the first stirrings of non-alignment; overlooked consular diplomats in smaller places in the global South (highlighting networks and linkages in the anti-communist ‘Southern cone’); capital cities in the so-called ‘Third World’ such as Dar es Salaam (known as a Cold War cross roads), neutral countries (Austria or Finland); strategically placed colonial possessions such as Hong Kong, as well as behind the Iron Curtain.