In 1875 Sir Edward Malet spent just a few months of his diplomatic career as a young attaché at the British Legation in Rome, yet when he came to write his memoirs a quarter of a century later he described it as ‘the pleasantest post in the service’. Malet’s words could easily have been those of a number of other British diplomats who showed a remarkable affection for Italy and the cities which served successively as its capital during the years following Italian unification: Turin (1861-5), Florence (1865-71), and Rome (from 1871). For certain other British representatives, however, life in Italy could be a much less pleasant experience. Many members of the consular service found that their careers brought them experiences to be endured rather than enjoyed, leading them to form very different views on their country of residence. During the mid-nineteenth century, the value of both diplomats and consuls to their home government often rested rather more in their ability to describe and explain foreign affairs than in their function as implementers of foreign policy or representatives of British interests overseas. Such observations and opinions could prove influential, and by comparing and contrasting the personal experiences of such individuals in Italy during the 1860s and ’70s, this paper enhances our understanding of British perceptions of the country at the same time as seeking to account for the strange combination of adoration and contempt they felt towards it during this critical phase of Italian history.
|Title of host publication||Exiles, Emigrés and Intermediaries: Anglo-Italian Cultural Transactions|
|Place of Publication||Amsterdam & New York|
|Publication status||Published - 2010|
Wright, O. (2010). ‘The “Pleasantest Post” in the Service? Contrasting British Diplomatic and Consular Experiences in Early Liberal Italy’. In B. Schaff (Ed.), Exiles, Emigrés and Intermediaries: Anglo-Italian Cultural Transactions (pp. 141-157). Rodopi.