The Last Days of Empire and the Worlds of Business and Diplomacy written by Charles Cullimore and published by Pen & Sword Books – £19.99 – Hardback – Pages 144
Charles Cullimore’s was a varied life from the end of the British Empire to high-level business and finally with major roles in post-imperial British policy. He rounded off a career appropriately by lecturing at the School of Oriental and African Studies in the University of London, underpinning academic study with his hands-on experience in international diplomacy. The account is modest, graphic, full of incident, personality and anecdotes, and face-to-face encounters with leading actors. After the ‘Devonshire course’ for entrants to the Colonial Service came appointment to Tanganyika and here is an intimate personal and ‘official’ account of district administration and the rise of TANU – Tanganyika African National Union – and decolonisation. The moving letter from Julius Nyerere reproduced in the text sums up a close relationship at the end of empire between the administration and the rising politicians assuming power at decolonisation when Tanganyika became Tanzania shortly after. A spell at ICI in ‘personnel’ followed in Scotland, Malaysia and Singapore. And then back to government service in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office focussed on Overseas Development, followed by a posting to Bonn at the height of the Cold War. The author came back to British Commonwealth service as Head of Chancery in India, Deputy High Commissioner in Australia, Head of the Central African Department in the FCO covering relations with the ‘front-line States’ and their conflict with South Africa. Finally, he was High Commissioner in Uganda at the time of state recovery under Museveni – an intimate account full of fascinating personal contact. A personal story, a colourful travelogue and an inside experience of politics and international relations, which includes a poignant ‘imperial’ sidelight with the discovery of his grandmother’s grave in India.
This was a more interesting book than maybe it looks in that it was quite helpful and insightful looking into a world of diplomacy, especially between countries with different ways and habits. Life in the British Colonial Service and the British Commonwealth seems quite varied and different every day, and often it seems they could be walking a tightrope daily. This is all the more unique as it’s the run-up towards the end of British rule in some countries. I enjoyed this book more than I thought, and I actually enjoyed the more diplomatic side of events. While this book might not be for everyone, it’s actually a really good and informative read.