Bristol University Press will publish my book, Lessons in Diplomacy: Politics, Power and Parties on 24 September 2024. You can pre-order the book here from Amazon or direct from BUP.
Here’s what the publisher says:
Is a diplomat’s life really as glamorous as a royal visit, or as dramatic as a coup d’état in Turkey? Leigh Turner is a former British ambassador who led posts in Ukraine, Turkey and Austria. In this witty globe-trotting adventure through one of the most intriguing careers a person can have, Leigh relates his interactions with royalty of both the aristocratic and celebrity kinds, and with brilliant and extraordinary people who bestowed valuable lessons. Offering astute reflections on Brexit, Russia’s War with Ukraine and the chaos of modern politics, he sheds new light on the intricacies of modern statecraft, including what we all can learn from a good diplomat or ambassador. In this entertaining and accessible first-hand account, you’ll discover how diplomats really work with spies, how immunity allows killers to escape justice, how Russia broke up the Soviet Union and then nursed its resentment at the consequences — and how to throw a great cocktail party.
Lessons in Diplomacy: top quote
Lessons in Diplomacy is the English version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Diplomacy, published in German in 2023 by Czernin Verlag (Vienna). One reader sent me this message after reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Diplomacy.
Dear Mr Turner,
I have just read your book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Diplomacy” and wanted to say thank you for writing such an interesting and entertaining book! Before I started reading I was already considering a path in diplomacy and after reading this my wish has been confirmed. I will hopefully be starting my studies at Oxford University in October where I will be reading history and politics. I wanted to ask if you had any further tips for aspiring diplomats. Thank you once again for the excellent book!
Lessons in Diplomacy: lessons for life
“Lessons in Diplomacy” tackles a series of questions that preoccupy both diplomats and everyone else. Chapters include How to survive a crisis, How to fail at geopolitical change: Brexit, How to understand Putin’s war on Ukraine, and How to handle politicians. I promise a good read.
Not your standard manual on diplomacy
This is not your standard manual on diplomacy. If you are looking for an explanation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations or the theory of diplomatic etiquette, please look elsewhere. But if you seek concrete examples of how diplomats really work with spies; how immunity allows killers to escape justice; how Russia broke up the Soviet Union then nursed its resentment at the consequences; or how to be a good diplomat, or ambassador – read on.
Lessons in Diplomacy: opening paragraphs
Here is an extract from the introduction.
Diplomacy in flux
These, however, are parsimonious days… The telegraph has made a difference in the position of Ambassadors. When men can and do receive instructions hourly about the smallest details, and, indeed, ask for them as if anxious to escape responsibility, it is easy to conceive that the Foreign Office will not again insist on the Treasury behaving with boundless liberality.
“The Times”, reporting on the debate about rebuilding Pera House, British Embassy in Istanbul, after the fire of 1870.
Diplomacy has been in flux for centuries. Are diplomats and their tradecraft redundant in today’s world? Or are they more vital than ever for humanity’s survival?
When I started this book, the simmering Russia-Ukraine conflict, launched in 2014 by President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Russia’s peaceful neighbour, had already claimed 14,000 lives. Yet it seemed remote and obscure to many in Britain, the European Union, and the United States. Putin’s decision in February 2022 to launch a full-scale war of annihilation against a sovereign country larger than France with a pre-war population of over forty million transformed the world and upended diplomacy.
With Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in Vienna, 2016
This book explores the background to the conflict: what the world did wrong, what it did right and what Vladimir Putin does not understand. It puts twenty-first century diplomacy in context by digging into the Berlin Wall, the rusting of the iron curtain, terrorism, espionage, and how British politics prepared for Brexit – from 1987 onwards.
How, where and why does diplomacy happen, and what can it teach the rest of us? What can Jonathan the tortoise on Saint Helena tell us about institutional stability? Why is diplomatic immunity a necessary evil? I explain why you can’t cure international terrorism, and what to do if you find broken glass in your fruit salad at a banquet at the Argentine Foreign Ministry. On the way, we meet extraordinary people, from The Queen, Vivienne Westwood and Jane Goodall through Paul McCartney and the wisdom of Deep Purple to US former C-17 pilot Brigadier General Lyn Sherlock – and Satan, whom I met one night in Moscow. More on him later.
1993: my Russian driving licence. Soviet photographers tended to make subjects look… a bit Soviet
1986: photobombing The Princess of Wales
Lessons in Diplomacy: sign up!
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2010: the Ukrainian Strategic Missile Forces Museum
Other things to read
You can find summaries of my other published books at the foot of the page.