When you think of the most exciting, controversial, or salacious moments in American history, your first thought probably isn’t the story of a U.S. consul. Consuls were charged by the U.S. State Department with reporting American trade in cities across the world, as well as taking care of Americans abroad, but they had little official diplomatic power. They weren’t negotiating treaties or starting wars; they weren’t leading charges into battle or changing the political landscape.

Or were they? The responsibility for the United States’ reputation in other parts of the world often fell squarely on the shoulders of consuls, who were the first ones called in when Americans got themselves in trouble or were mistreated while they were abroad. How they interpreted their duties sometimes got them involved in all kinds of complicated circumstances. And often, their actions on a personal level had ramifications far up the chain, even making a difference in national politics or international relations.

The stories of these consuls deserve to be told. Consolation Prize is a narrative-style podcast, hosted by Abby Mullen, who talks to scholars across the historical discipline about consuls and their world. You’ll also hear the voices of these consuls, their colleagues, and their enemies, telling their own stories. In this season, you’ll hear about rhinoceroses, and coffee trading, and hymn writing; you’ll hear about imprisonment, slavery, and oppression. You’ll hear stories of revenge, humiliation, and bitter feuds, but also stories of triumph, joy, and delight. You’ll go places as close to home as Vera Cruz, Mexico, and as far away as Canton and Zanzibar.

Please join us as we travel the globe with nineteenth-century consuls!


Abby Mullen is the host and executive producer of Consolation Prize. She is a term assistant professor in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University. Her work focuses on the First Barbary War, where she encountered the four consuls who inspired this podcast: Richard O’Brien, James Leander Cathcart, William Eaton, and James Simpson.

Megan Brett is a producer on Consolation Prize. She is a digital history associate at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. She holds a PhD in American History from George Mason University. Her dissertation examined citizenship and identity in the United States through the lens of the Maury family, one of whom was a consul in Liverpool.

Kris Stinson is a producer on Consolation Prize. He is a PhD student and Presidential Fellow in George Mason University’s Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. His research interests revolve around the religious and intellectual culture of the early American republic.

Deepthi Murali is a producer on Consolation Prize. She is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. She has a PhD in Art History specializing in transcultural art and encounters of South Asia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Brenna Reilley is a research and production assistant for Consolation Prize. She is an undergraduate student at George Mason University studying History and Nonprofit Studies. Her work includes social and cultural history projects, such as Women Tavern Keepers, Medical History in the Americas, and East German Cinema.

Andrew Cote is our composer-in-residence. As a composer of acoustic and electronic music, his compositions have been performed and recorded across three continents. His works have been featured at the Navy Band International Saxophone Symposium, the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic, the World Saxophone Congress, and various other festivals and conferences. His latest album, Ulterior Motives: The Saxophone Music of Andrew Cote, is available on iTunes, Amazon, and most other online retailers. Andrew previously taught music composition, orchestration, music technology, and directed the new music ensemble at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. Andrew began teaching at Merrimack College in the fall of 2020, where he teaches courses in music theory and music technology.