Department of History

Ambassador David Bruce, the London Embassy and Diplomatic Practice, 1961-69

Project summary

This project, which was partly funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council Grant (£62,500; 2012-13), analysed the work and importance of the US Ambassador in London to relations between the United Kingdom and the United States, looking at the experience of David Bruce during the 1960s, with a focus on his day-to-day diplomatic duties. Combining in-depth historical research with the study diplomatic studies, it investigated the relevance of the resident embassy to the conduct of modern diplomacy. 

Former American Embassy in Grosvenor Square


Whereas media coverage of the so-called ‘special relationship’ focuses on the high-level, personal dealings between Presidents and Prime Ministers, this project looked lower down, at the exchanges on a day-to-day, official level – the ‘inner workings’ of the relationship. In so doing, it touched on a wide range of topics, including political and economic issues, but also trade and public relations, military and intelligence co-operation. But also, in contrast to other academic studies of ambassadorships, which tend to concentrate on bilateral political relations, this project focused and reflects upon the ambassador’s work as a diplomat. It sought to understand how he established contacts with the British government, the extent to which he interacted with Parliament, the media and the general public, his promotion of friendly relations with Britain, his political reporting and policy advice to his own government in Washington, the work of his embassy staff and his engagement with his fellow ambassadors in the diplomatic corps.

In so doing, the project addressed some of the major debates about ambassadors in the diplomatic studies literature, including that of the ‘death of the embassy’ in the twentieth century, and it asked how important the Ambassador was compared to other methods of communication between the two governments, such as summit meetings, the work of the United Kingdom’s embassy in Washington and contacts via international organisations, like the United Nations and NATO. It showed that, however reduced the centrality of ambassadors had become, they were still a vital factor in diplomatic relations at this time, especially between the major powers. As well as published works, the project was based on archival research in the United States and UK, oral history projects and the remarkably full diaries left behind by David Bruce himself. 

Who's involved

John Young


Arts and Humanities Research Council



Ambassador to Sixties London: the diaries of David Bruce, 1961-69, co-edited with Dr. Raj Roy (Republic of Letters, Dordrecht, 2010)

‘Ambassador David Bruce and LBJ’s War: Vietnam viewed from London, 1963-68’, Diplomacy and Statecraft, Vol. 22, No. 1 (March 2011), 81-100

‘David K.E. Bruce, 1961-69’, in Alison Holmes and Simon Rofe, eds., The Embassy in Grosvenor Square: American ambassadors to the United kingdom, 1938-2008 (Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2012), 153-70

‘The US Embassy in London and Britain’s withdrawal from East of Suez, 1961-69’, in John W. Young, Effie Pedaliu and Michael Kandiah, eds.,  Britain in Global Politics, Volume 2, From Churchill to Blair (Palgrave, Basingstoke, 2013),  139-58

David Bruce and Diplomatic Practice: an American ambassador in London, 1961-69 (Bloomsbury, New York, 2014; paperback edition 2016)

Department of History

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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