James McCarthy was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1936, graduated from Aberdeen University in 1959 and now lives in Edinburgh. He saw military service with the Royal Marines, Black Watch and King’s African Rifles during the Mau Mau campaign in Kenya. Subsequently he became the first European post-graduate student at Makerere College, Kampala and carried out forest exploration in Uganda and Tanzania, latterly introducing the first course in forest ecology for African forest rangers. He has been the holder of a Leverhulme Scholarship, a Churchill Fellowship and a Nuffield-Leverhulme Fellowship. He has travelled widely in Europe, North America, Africa and Australia. He retired as Deputy Director (Scotland) from the Nature Conservancy Council in 1991 and became a Board Member of the new organisation, Scottish Natural Heritage. His consultancy work has included advising the Icelandic Government on interpretation for visitors to their first National Park and US National Park Service on coastal conservation. McCarthy has published books on the natural heritage and land use of Scotland and, latterly, biographies of 18th and 19th Century Scottish explorers and travellers, in whom he has a special interest. He is currently chairman of the Scottish Centre for Geopoetics. He is married, with three grown-up children.
The subject of The Diplomat of Kashgar, Sir George Macartney, was of mixed Scottish-Chinese parentage. Based in remote Kashgar on the famous Silk Road, he was caught up in the great 19th and early 20th century power-struggle among Britain,China and Russia over control of Central Asia in what came to be known as ‘The Great Game’. Here he met the scheming Russian Consul Nicolai Petrovsky who was to prove a cunning adversary in the political contest for control in this turbulent region. Much of the book is concerned with Petrovsky’s devious machinations to outflank the British agent. Macartney’s wife, Catherine, has provided intimate descriptions of their domestic life and some of the hazardous journeys they made with their family when travelling to and from the United Kingdom on leave. Her very few visitors were unstinting in their praise for her courage and adaptability, not least when seriously threatened by revolutionaries. They also recognised that only George Macartney, with his renowned tact and diplomacy, allied to steely determination, could have maintained the British position with so little external support. His dangerous encounter leading a mission to the Bolshevik revolutionaries in Tashkent made for a dramatic finale to his extraordinary career in a restive region now causing concern to the Chinese government.
The Diplomat of Kashgar is:
“A tale of intrigue and suspense, hardship and homesickness, geopolitics and high policy….The story of another age … that still has relevance today.”
“Macartney’s character shines through this book. James McCarthy has performed a great service by bringing to light the remarkable achievements of this quiet, humble and highly effective exemplar of a style of diplomacy we neglect at our peril.”
“The region of Xinjiang, where Kashgar is the second city, sits at the heart of one of the least stable parts of the globe, bordering Russia, the Central Asian republics, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Pakistan. It has been a disputed territory for centuries, finally incorporated into China only in the 18th century. … If, as many believe, this is to be China’s century, then Macartney’s old stomping ground will have an important part to play. This book, and the history it helps bring to mind, is thus a useful source of knowledge and insight into a region we can expect to hear about a lot more.”
Graham Leicester, HM Diplomatic Service, 1984-1995.
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