This is an article highlighting the limitations of Lord Salisbury as foreign secretary in an age when foreign policy was for the first time taking on a truly global character, and yet its practitioners still possessed a rather parochial, almost exclusively European experience, and distrusted ‘experts’. It was of course the late nineteenth-century spread of European imperialism that first called for such global policy making, and thus most of this Europe-dominated world was still for the time being quite susceptible to a Eurocentric approach.
But if any area was the exception it was eastern Asia, in due course to be mainly responsible for decline of Western imperial world hegemony. And in the vanguard of this counter-challenge was to be Japan, a country with which Salisbury personally was to find himself all at sea. By contrast, Ernest Satow, more than any other figure of his time, found the key to Japan, and it is a sign of how poorly general Western understanding of that country has progressed since then that his voluminous diaries and papers sit in the Public Record Office, still largely untouched by researchers.