Hugh Templeton

Mr Ambassador: Memoirs of Sir Carl Berendsen

ISBN: 9780864735843

Celebrated for the statement: If you look at a thing and it’s 51% black and 49% white, then, for Christ’s sake, it’s black! Sir Carl Berendsen (1890–1973) was the founder of New Zealand foreign policy.

He was a dynamic thinker, a gifted writer, an outstanding administrator and a considerable orator. Few civil servants before or since have addressed both Cabinet and Parliament; few have made or been involved in making so much and such important policy; and few have had such a significant influence on New Zealand and its international relationships.

As the Head of the Department of External Affairs, High Commissioner to Australia, and then Ambassador to Washington, he was involved in such major events as the ANZAC pact, preparations for World War II, the formation of the United Nations, the ANZUS Treaty and the Japanese Peace Treaty.

The book includes Berendsen’s first hand reports of the administration of New Zealand’s foreign policy in the first half of the 20th century, and his character sketches of many of the prominent political figures that he encountered during his career.

Praise for Mr Ambassador

These memoirs, edited by former diplomat and Cabinet Minister Hugh Templeton, are essential reading for anyone interested in New Zealand history. Berendsen wrote superbly, and he played a pivotal role in our approach to the momentous events of the mid 20th century.

Carl Berendsen remains one of New Zealand's legendary public servants, a key figure in the founding of our foreign service. His memoirs - five disparate volumes have lain at Victoria University for decades. Now Hugh Templeton has edited them into a shorter and far more coherent narrative.
This book is as much an example of the art of editing as it is of autobiography. And even those without a penchant for the history of our foreign service should find this an extraordinary character portrait.

His memoirs are a fascinating insight into the top echelons of decision-making during the 1920s, '30s, '40s and '50s, and the men who made the decisions.

A historical treasure trove, an absolute mine of information.

Hon. Hugh Templeton, himself a former employee of the New Zealand Department of External Affairs, New Zealand’s last Deputy High Commissioner of Western Samoa, and a Cabinet Minister in the Muldoon government, has shaped Berendsen’s reminiscences into a fascinating and candid account of Berendsen’s rise from an impoverished childhood in Australia and Southland to the highest levels of the New Zealand bureaucracy.

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