Series consists of briefing books created by the Department of External Affairs. When the Department of External Affairs was required to meet a specific foreign policy objective the usual procedure was to create a briefing book to familiarize officials with the background information involved. This material was usually drawn together from registry files, from foreign posts, from published works and other sources, and compiled in book form. The book would then be used to brief officials, ranging from conference delegates to the Secretary of State for External Affairs and other cabinet level officials. After the event for which the book had been prepared had passed, the briefing book was held by the Department for reference purposes.
The records cover the complete range of Canadian external affairs from the late nineteenth century to the mid-1980's. Most of the material deals with ongoing bodies in which Canada was or is a member: the British Empire, the British Commonwealth, the League of Nations, the United Nations, and the Francophonie. There are also briefing books on a number of single event or issue questions, such as state visits, summit meetings, disarmament, and political rights. All of the records are not in briefing book form; some are reports or proceedings of conferences.