When you think of the most exciting, controversial, or salacious moments in American history, your first thought probably isn’t the story of a U.S. consul. Consuls were charged by the U.S. State Department with reporting American trade in cities across the world, as well as taking care of Americans abroad, but they had little official diplomatic power. They weren’t negotiating treaties or starting wars; they weren’t leading charges into battle or changing the political landscape.
Or were they? The responsibility for the United States’ reputation in other parts of the world often fell squarely on the shoulders of consuls, who were the first ones called in when Americans got themselves in trouble or were mistreated while they were abroad. How they interpreted their duties sometimes got them involved in all kinds of complicated circumstances. And often, their actions on a personal level had ramifications far up the chain, even making a difference in national politics or international relations.
The stories of these consuls deserve to be told. Consolation Prize is a narrative-style podcast, hosted by Abby Mullen, who talks to scholars across the historical discipline about consuls and their world. You’ll also hear the voices of these consuls, their colleagues, and their enemies, telling their own stories. In this season, you’ll hear about rhinoceroses, and coffee trading, and hymn writing; you’ll hear about imprisonment, slavery, and oppression. You’ll hear stories of revenge, humiliation, and bitter feuds, but also stories of triumph, joy, and delight. You’ll go places as close to home as Vera Cruz, Mexico, and as far away as Canton and Zanzibar.
Please join us as we travel the globe with nineteenth-century consuls!