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The Foreign Office's long war on women

A review of Women of the World: The Rise of the Female Diplomat, by Helen McCarthy. Until the second half of the 20th century, female diplomacy meant wives and dresses

17 May 2014

9:00 AM

17 May 2014

9:00 AM

Women of the World: The Rise of the Female Diplomat Helen McCarthy

Bloomsbury, pp.416, £25, ISBN: 9781408840054

I faltered during the preface to this account of the rise of the female (British) diplomat. Helen McCarthy, a historian at London University’s Queen Mary college, describes herself as being drawn to this subject by meeting diplomats (male) who were ‘bloody brilliant’. I feared a breathlessly deferential narrative. Then, as I started reading the text itself, I found myself getting scratchy at minor errors — titles and the like — and had I not promised to write a review, I should have switched to a thriller on my Kindle.

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Eliza Manningham-Buller was director general of MI5 from 2002 to 2007. Available from the Spectator Bookshop, £20. Tel: 08430 600033

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