Candidate Profile

Politics & Current Affairs
World Affairs
Nigel Cox is a former British diplomat with extensive European and Asian expertise. He is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin. In 1976, just after the death of Chairman Mao, he started two years’ training in Mandarin Chinese, in Cambridge and Hong Kong. He spent a total of eight years at the British Embassy in Beijing, including from 2000 to 2002 as deputy to the Ambassador, in the rank of Minister and Consul-General. He was then appointed Director Asia-Pacific, responsible for UK relations with the whole region from Myanmar to Japan and from Mongolia to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands. He had previously served as Head of the South East Asian Department. Earlier he had spent six years in Paris.

After a year’s secondment to business (the P&O Group and AstraZeneca), Nigel left the Diplomatic Service and worked as a consultant on power generation investment openings in Vietnam. From 2009 to 2013 he was Clerk to one of London’s ancient guilds, the Fishmongers’ Company. He now works part-time on the Foreign Office Archives, advising on whether redactions are required before files are released to the public. He also undertakes voluntary work, including with English Heritage as a guide at Apsley House (The Wellington Museum) in London.

He has published articles and reviews, including in the quarterly “Asian Affairs”, and recently contributed five chapters to “Brave Lives”, an account of members of the Travellers Club in London who were killed in the First World War.

Crossing the Irish Sea - from St Brendan's Coracle to Boris's Tunnel?
The story of how Irish and British travellers mastered St George's Channel; including the great days of sail and steam, the Dublin-Liverpool cattle boat and the Holyhead-Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) mailboat. Is it time for a tunnel?

A Medici Giraffe, a Pope's Elephant and a Drowned Rhinoceros
A journey through 12 masterpieces of Renaissance art inspired by the exotic animals which arrived in European Courts in the 14th and 15th Centuries.

Napoleon & the Mediterranean: Episodes in the Life of the Corsican who became an Emperor.
Explore the large part played in Napoleon's life by places in the Mediterranean: birth and childhood in Corsica; first journey to France; return to Corsica and revolutionary politics; military campaigning in Toulon and Italy; expedition to Egypt, capturing Malta en route; triumphal return to glory in France; then exile as ruler of Elba; and his escape and the road to Waterloo.

Fit for a Queen: Queen Victoria and the French Riviera
Discover Queen Victoria’s enthusiasm for the Mediterranean and the story of her nine trips there in the 1880s and 1890s, to Menton, Cannes, Grasse and Nice, and learn about her early visits to France and her friendship with the deposed Empress Eugenie.

Happy Landings? Some Previous Arrivals on France’s Mediterranean Coast
Uncover some varied stories, including the Grimaldis’ first coming to Monaco; the Royal Navy’s seizure of Toulon and Monaco; Napoleon’s return from Elba; France’s first (Sudanese) giraffe and (Egyptian) obelisk; occupiers and liberators in World War II; and the beginnings of tourism on the Riviera.

The Captains and the Kings Depart? Monarchies of the Mediterranean
Explore the changing fortunes of the monarchies of Italy, Monaco, France and Spain. Consider whether Spain may follow France and Italy on the path to a republic. Find out about the present colourful claimants to the French and Italian thrones.

Eternal Enemies? The Problems Between Turkey and Greece
A look at the tense and volatile relationship between these two neighbours – its origins, recent developments and prospects.

We Have Friends All Over The World? The Phenomenon of Chinese Tourism
Until the 1980s China was closed to most foreigners, and Chinese citizens could only travel overseas on official business. In 2018 there were over 140 million visits in both directions. Thailand alone received over 10 million Chinese tourists. Nigel will review these developments and look at some of the benefits and challenges.

Sailing Through The Sands – the Story of the Suez Canal.
2019 saw the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Suez Canal by the Empress Eugenie of France. Nigel tells the stories of the Empress and the Opening Ceremonies. He traces the Canal’s background, explains how It became a cornerstone of Britain’s global power, until in 1956 an Anglo-French operation to “protect” it ended in fiasco and development. He will also review the recent expansion of the Canal.

Palaces of Prestige? Some British Embassies of the East
Step behind the gates and explore the architectural and decorative riches of some British Ambassadorial and Consular Residences, from Muscat to Cairo to Istanbul. Do they play a useful role today?

A Long Way from Windsor? Queen Elizabeth II’s Travels in Asia
Follow The Queen in half a century of Asian exploration, from the Cocos Islands to China and from Bali to Karachi, through a period of extraordinary changes. What were the triumphs? What the failures? What made her laugh? And why did she overlook Myanmar and the Philippines?

Making China Great Again?
1500 years ago Persian and Arab traders were already bringing Chinese silk and porcelains to their countries and to the Mediterranean. Chinese mariners followed and in the 15th century great treasure fleets reached Red Sea and Persian Gulf ports, taking home priceless “tribute” to the Ming Emperors. But soon after China banned foreign travel. Nigel will explore the history of Chinese seafaring and assess the implications of its recent return to the Indian Ocean.

Migrants from the Celestial Empire: The Overseas Chinese in South East Asia.
Nigel will review the history of Chinese emigration to South East Asia and the development of successful and prosperous Overseas Chinese communities, often in the face of persecution or discrimination. He will highlight the diversity of the Overseas Chinese today and their continuing vital economic role and discuss their contribution to China’s economic rise and the implications of that rise.

"Of Cabbages and Kings”: Reigning and Deposed Monarchies of East Asia
Meet the region’s hereditary rulers and pretenders, from Japan to Burma, from the oldest dynasty to the youngest and from the first dethroned to the most recent. Discover who is the richest and most powerful and who the least, who the most scholarly and who the zaniest, and who is the first to appoint a woman as his successor.

Reigning in the Land of Smiles: the Thai Monarchy today - the King and Who?
In 2019 a new Thai King was crowned, with solemn Hindu/Buddhist ceremonies. He succeeded the revered King Bhumiphol who reigned for 58 years. Within Thailand frank discussion of the monarchy is barred by strict laws of “lèse majesté”. While we are in international waters, Nigel will introduce the history of the Thai monarchy and assess its political role in recent times as well as the colourful background of King Rama X.

Running Amok: Modern Malaysian Politics.
In 2018 a 92-year old former Prime Minister was re-elected, pledged to hand power over to the deputy he had dismissed and imprisoned in 1998. His predecessor was charged with embezzling US $4.5 billion, and his wife, the owner of 500 designer handbags, is accused of involvement in the murder of a Mongolian model. Nigel will explore the colourful course of Malaysian politics and their historical background.

Going Out with A Bang: A Viceroy’s Trip to the Andaman Islands; and Other Ill-Fated British Governors.
In 1872 the Earl of Mayo, Viceroy of India, was assassinated in the Andaman Islands. Nigel looks at that event and its background, as well as the assassination of other British colonial governors from the 17th to the 20th century and from Bermuda to Hong Kong, offering some unusual insights into the complex history of the British Empire.

A Test of Characters? Learning Mandarin Chinese and the Chinese Language Today.
Nigel will share his personal experience of studying Mandarin Chinese, some of its difficulties and rewards. He will also give an overview of the modern development of the language, including the move from cumbersome Chinese typewriters to today’s high-speed computer technology.

Tea for Two? From the Chinese Empire to the British.
The long history of tea is the subject of many myths as well as some surprising facts. Nigel will try to disentangle the facts from the myths, with a particular focus on how China and Britain interacted to make tea the world’s favourite beverage – with the help of a US invention of the early
20th century.Art,

Art, Sense & Nonsense in the East: the Travels of Edward Lear.
Edward Lear (1812-1888?) is now probably best remembered for his humorous limericks and other verse, but he was also a talented painter of birds and landscapes, invited by Queen Victoria to give him drawing lessons. Nigel discusses his life and work, particularly his travels to the Mediterranean, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and India.

Asiatic Footnotes?
Stroll through some unusual aspects of East Asian history and culture, from the 3000 shoes allegedly collected by former Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos to 1000 years of Chinese “lotus feet” (foot-binding), and from shoe-throwing at unpopular Chinese politicians to the “Great Burmese Shoe Controversies”.

Palaces of the East: Some Grand Hotels of Asia
Yangon, Penang and Singapore are home to three of the Far East’s most historic hotels, founded by three remarkable Armenian brothers. Nigel looks at the history of these and some other notable Asian hotels.

Send Us Victorias? Toppling the Mighty from their Seats.
From King George III in Battery Park in 1776 to Saddam Hussein in Baghdad in 2005, people have often enjoyed demolishing the statues of deposed or unpopular rulers. Queen Victoria never travelled outside Europe, but many statues of her were sent to India and elsewhere in Asia (including Aden in the Yemen). Nigel will look at how these reminders of the British Empire fared after independence and more recently.

Banishing the Vanquished: Some Imperial Exiles
Once Napoleon was exiled to St Helena he stopped causing wars in Europe. The British banished many other troublesome potentates far from the lands they had ruled. Nigel will trace the stories of some of the more colourful, including the last Moghul Emperor of India, sent to Burma; Kings of Ceylon and Burma sent to India; and a Malay Sultan, a later Egyptian Prime Minister and, most recently, a Greek Cypriot Archbishop sent to the Seychelles.

The Story of Coffee.
The beverage with the world’s fastest growing consumption today originated in Ethiopia and soon crossed the Red Sea to the Yemen, from where it spread to Europe and the world. Nigel will explore the history.

With All Due Respect: Courtesy or Kowtow? Dilemmas in Diplomatic Etiquette.
Foreign travellers have not always found it easy to follow the principle of “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Not everyone shares the Arab taste for sheeps’ eyes. Nigel looks at how protocol issues sometimes became major cultural clashes, notably over the Chinese Kowtow, when foreign Ambassadors were required to prostrate themselves to the Emperor, and the Great Burmese (Myanmar) Shoe Controversies.

Seas of Tranquillity? The Malacca Strait and China’s Maritime Strategy.
The Malacca Strait has huge global economic importance. Nigel will give some historical background before assessing the prospects for regional security and stability in the context of China’s territorial claims and its rapidly growing economic influence and naval strength. He will try to answer the question, what does China want?

Mountbatten in Ceylon: When Kandy was the Headquarters of the Allied Struggle against Japan in South East Asia.
In 1944 Lord Louis Mountbatten was appointed Allied Supreme Commander, South East Asia in 1944. He soon decided to establish his headquarters at Kandy in what is now Sri Lanka. Nigel will look at the planning, organisation and atmosphere in Kandy and at Mountbatten’s leadership of the Command from the Burma campaign until he took the Japanese surrender in Singapore in September 1945.

In Quest of a Giraffe? The Chinese Maritime Explorers of the 15th Century.
A history of Chinese seafaring, culminating in the great expeditions of Treasure Ships sent out by the early Ming Emperors; their objectives and achievements, and the strange closing of China’s doors which followed them.

Joining the Dots: Links to the British Indian Ocean Islands by Passenger Liner and Airlines.
A review of 20th century passenger travel from Mauritius and the Seychelles to Europe, East and South Africa, India and beyond: the heyday of the British India Line and other ocean liners; the arrival and development of air links; and the changing style of air travel.

Not Just Reunion: France’s Indian Ocean Empire.
How France almost became the predominant European power in India, and the stepping stones it occupied on the way there; its loss of Mauritius, the Seychelles and more recently Madagascar; and why the tricolour still flies over the Departments of Reunion and Mayotte.
Voyages to Antiquity:

AEG190126: Beyond Burma and the Malay Peninsula: 23 January - 11 February 2019
(Singapore, Malacca, Penang, Phuket, Yangon, Port Blair, Colombo)

AEG190211: Islands of the Indian Oceans and South Africa: 11 February - 14 March 2019
(Colombo, Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Reunion, Richards Bay, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town)
The following recent Cruise History has been recorded for this candidate.
Seabourn Ovation 8010 Magnificent Vietnam & Thailand 14 Hong Kong Saturday, January 4, 2020
Viking Orion OR190920 Far East Discovery 14 Hong Kong Friday, September 20, 2019