Giles Milton

Rise and Fall

Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean


John Murray 480pp £25 order from our bookshop

Pity the lot of the modern British consul. Globalisation has undermined his raison d’être; budget cuts have robbed him of his perks. Croquet on the consulate lawn would still be jolly japes if only the Foreign Office hadn’t sold off the lawn.

How much rosier was consular life in the eighteenth century, especially for those lucky few posted to one of the great cities of the Levantine world. They lived like Oriental potentates, enjoyed vast salaries and had the power of life and death over their own nationals. Moreover, they often acted as intermediaries for the scheming viziers, eunuchs and sheikhs in whose fiefdoms they resided.

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