History does not run in straight lines. Instead of inevitable progress, what we get is more often false starts, blind alleys, random events, good intentions that go wrong. Robert Cooper’s incisive and elegant book is therefore not a continuous diplomatic history. Richelieu and Mazarin inhabited a 16th-century world we can hardly imagine today, but it is from their time that we can begin to see the outline of today’s Europe.
The Ambassadors includes a brilliant analysis of the people who built the Western side of the Cold War. Henry Kissinger is a pivotal figure in the post-war world, and his story is in some ways typical: he failed in his most important aims and succeeded in ways he never expected. Robert Cooper’s pieces together history and considers the illuminating fragments it leaves behind.