Abstract: The Temptation to Advance Private Interests at the Expense of Public Duty: The Role of the British Consul in Facilitating FDI in the Nineteenth Century

Sarah Dietz


In December 1882 Edward Briggs, a British textile manufacturer, wrote to the British consul at Warsaw, announcing his intention to build a factory in Russian Poland. This paper will explore the pivotal role played by British consular offices to facilitate British FDI in the late-nineteenth century, despite domestic condemnation of increasing capital export and general disgruntlement among British industrialists at the perceived unfair advantages to manufacturers abroad. It will show how the consul's official duties placed him in a unique position to take an unofficial consultative role, or even share, in private business ventures which contributed nothing to the British economy. He used the cachet of his connection to the British government to engender the trust of foreign traders and authorities alike to assist venture capitalists and increase his own income. But although the lucrative personal possibilities of the posting are strongly implied and despite contemporary accusations of corruption, this paper will consider whether consuls were forced to nurture close associations with commerce in order to fulfil their official mandate and to gain the assistance of informants and the respect of their home and host states.