Up till 2006 a British Ambassador leaving his post was encouraged to write what was known as a valedictory despatch, to be circulated to a small number of influential people in government. This was the parting shot, an opportunity to offer a personal and frank view of the host country, the manners and morals of its people, their institutions, the state of their cooking and their drains. But it was also a chance to let rip at the Foreign Office itself and to look back on a career spent in the service of a sometimes ungrateful nation.
Combining gems from the archives with more recent despatches obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, "Parting Shots" is a treasure trove of wit, venom and serious analysis. Astute and often gloriously non-politically, they shed light on Britain's place in the world, and reveal the curious cocktail of privilege and privation which make up the life of an ambassador.