Foreign Office fonds [textual record (chiefly microform)]. [Great Britain]
Record Information – Brief1
Foreign Office fonds [textual record (chiefly microform)]. [Great Britain]
- Hierarchical level:
- R14354-0-9-E, MG16-FO
- Type of material:
- Textual material
- Found in:
- Archives / Collections and Fonds
- Item ID number:
- Context of this record:
Record Information – Details
- Fonds includes:
15 lower level description(s)View lower level description(s)
- Place of creation:
461 microfilm reels : negative & positive ; 35 mm.
28.1 cm of textual records : transcripts.
- Language of material:
- Scope and content:
Fonds consists of copies of whole classes or selections from various classes of the Foreign Office of Great Britain pertaining to British North America in what became Canada and the United States of America. In the form of transcripts and microfilm, these records document diplomatic relations between Great Britain and the United States of America and between Great Britain and France and the effect of those relations on the growth and development of Canada. Some specific issues include: the American Civil War, fisheries, Newfoundland, boundaries, treaties and Canadian-American relations. Examples of topics which have been sought in these records are: intelligence gathering, American support for or tolerance of the "patriots" and the Fenians, extradition cases, treaty negotiations, boundary disputes and immigrants arriving at American ports.
- Additional name(s):
- Biography/Administrative history:
Great Britain. Foreign Office : Prior to the reign of Henry VIII, the King's secretary was his confidential servant, responsible for the custody of the signet and the business transacted under its seal. He was usually skilled in diplomacy and definitely influential in foreign affairs. Unlike other government officials, the duties of the secretaryship were not rigidly circumscribed by letters patent. When, in 1536, Thomas Cromwell succeeded to the office under Henry VIII, he revolutionized the secretaryship by extending his influence into virtually all functions of the internal administration of the state, while consolidating and strengthening the secretary's seat on the Privy Council. In 1540, Cromwell relinquished the secretaryship to become Lord Privy Seal and two secretaries were appointed to fill his place, thereby establishing a tradition of dual incumbency which thereafter characterized the office. During the eighteenth century, a rough geographical division came into being which distinguished between the Southern Department which supervised the foreign affairs of France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, Turkey, the Barbary States, Home and Irish Affairs, on the one side, and the Northern Department on the other which assumed responsibility for the Low Countries, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Russia and others. However, in spite of such divisions, it was common for each secretary to take an interest in the affairs of the other's department and, in the absence of one, for all business to be carried on by the other. This arrangement persisted until 1782 when certain administrative reforms led to the creation of the Foreign Office under the direction of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Initially, the staff of the Foreign Office was relatively small by modern standards, with the Secretary himself performing a wide variety of duties. Later in the nineteenth century, the demands of Victorian England required an expanding establishment. Its various departments may be divided more or less into political or non-political categories. The political departments conducted the diplomatic business of the office and at least initially maintained the pre-1782 division of southern and northern spheres or departments. These political departments were later subdivided or rearranged as circumstances dictated. The non-political departments comprised Consular, Commercial, Slave Trade and Africa, Chief Clerk, Treaty and Royal Letter, Library, Registry, and other miscellaneous departments. The Foreign Office of Great Britain merged into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1968. It conducted British relations with nearly all foreign states between 1782 and 1968. Further information on the administrative history of the British Foreign Office is available in various sources including, for instance, the General Inventory, Volume 2, MG 11 to MG 16, of the Manuscript Division of the National Archives, printed in 1976 and the "Overseas Information Leaflet 14" of the Public Record Office.
- Finding aid:
Textual records: (Paper) (90: Open)Textual records (Microform) Microfilm copy of list, B-1678. (90: Open)Textual records (Paper) List of Foreign Office classes, in "Guide to the Contents of the Public Record Office" (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1963-1968). (90: Open)Textual records (Paper) List of Foreign Office classes in Charles O. Paullin and Frederic L. Paxson, "Guide to the Materials in London Archives for the History of the United States since 1783", (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1914). Includes a detailed volume by volume analysis of material in the Foreign Office groups which were deemed relevant to the history of the United States. Since the work was compiled before the present Foreign Office classification was completed, existing class numbers are not included, however the volume numbers are, for the most part correct. (90: Open)(Electronic) All or some of the documents described have been digitized and are available at the following address: (90: Open)
http://heritage.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.lac_mikan_158582?usrlang=en(Electronic) Les documents décrits ont été complètement ou en partie numérisés et sont disponibles à l'adresse suivante : (90: Open)
- Additional information:
- General Note:
- The microfilm reels, both "B" and "C" reels, are available for consultation through the inter-institutional loan service offered by the National Archives of Canada. Loans must be requested by institutions participating in the loan service on behalf of their patrons and must specify the microfilm reel numbers required. Additional information about the microfilm loan service of the National Archives may be found on its website.
- Arrangement note:
The records of the Foreign Office are arranged in numbered classes which are defined geographically by the country concerned (e.g., FO 5, General Correspondence, United States of America; FO 27, General Correspondence, France, etc.), or functionally by the department of origin (e.g., FO 93 and 94, Treaties; FO 610 to 614 and others, Passport Office). There are also certain other anomalous classes such as Confidential Print, Miscellanea, and Private Collections which do not fall into either of the above categories., The geographically defined classes generally pre-date 1906. Within each class is included all general correspondence received by the Foreign Office in London relating to a particular country. The correspondence includes both incoming and outgoing communications of that country's accredited representatives in Great Britain, as well as memoranda and letters of government departments and private individuals of the country involved., This method of classification prevailed until 1920 when a general reorganization of the correspondence of the Foreign Office was undertaken and made retroactive to 1906. By this reorganization, correspondence which was formerly arranged geographically was arranged functionally in categories corresponding to the departmental organization of the Foreign Office itself. The following are examples of these categories: Commercial (FO 368); Political (FO 371); Treaty (FO 372), etc. Nevertheless, within many of these classes, a geographical distinction was maintained between the individual constituent volumes. It should be stressed that the records normally accumulated outside the London Office remained largely unaffected by this reorganization insofar as their arrangement continued to be in geographically defined classes.
- Location of originals note:
- The original documents are located in the Public Record Office, London, England.
- Reproduction note:
- The microfilmed originals of the Foreign Office classes are available on "B" microfilm reels; the microfilmed transcripts are available on "C" microfilm reels. Microfilm reel numbers are identified in the description of specific "FO" classes.
- Dates of creation note:
- Microfilmed 1956 to 1985; transcribed 1912 to 1955.
- Associated material note:
- Foreign Office prints are found in the records of the Department of External Affairs.
- Further accruals are possible.
- Related material:
- Important collections of similar or related documents are found in the National Archives. Most notable is RG 7, Governor General's Office: series G6, G8a, and G8b, G11, G15b and G17b which includes extensive correspondence with the British Ministers at Washington from both Lieutenant-Governors and Governors-General. Other classes of documents copied from the holdings of the Public Record Office, e.g., Colonial Office (MG 11), include notes and memoranda sent to or from the Foreign Office. In addition, private collections of certain Foreign Secretaries such as the Earl of Derby, Earl Granville and the Earl of Kimberley have been selectively copied (MG 27).
- Subject heading:
- Former archival reference no.:
Ordering and Viewing Options
- Conditions of access:
There are no restrictions on the consultation of any of the microfilmed records. Requests for copies of selected, microfilmed, original documents for research purposes will be permitted. However, requests for copies of original documents on microfilm, for publication or exhibition purposes, must be addressed to the Public Record Office, London, England. Requests to purchase copies of whole microfilm reels should also be directed to the Public Record Office.
The transcripts are unavailable for research for conservation reasons. However, they have been microfilmed and can be consulted or copied from the microfilm.
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