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History Notes Issue 5 [March 1993]

FCO Library: Print, Paper and Publications (1782 – 1993)

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.Fea LIBRARY ;Print, Paper and Publications, 1782-1993

If•. S

Merd lS9!


Print, Paper and Publications, 1782-1993

Historical Branch, LRD


Although the formal origins of FCO Library begin with the appointments of the Librarians and Keepers of the Papers of the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office in 1801 and 1807 respectively, Library functions and collections go back much earlier. As regards printed books, for example, volumes bought originally for the Secretaries of State in charge of the old Northern and Southern Departments were taken over by the Foreign Office after 1782, while the Colonial Office inherited works which had been purchased for the old Council for Trade and Plantations. As one of the Office's oldest departments it has seen many changes in its nearly two hundred years of activity, reflecting changes in Britain's role in the world, corresponding adjustments in the Office and, more recently, the transformation of library work from the scholarly and custodial to demand-led supply of information to support the work of departments and posts. Its inclusion since 1990 in Information Systems Division reflects the key contribution which information technology now makes to its work. The last few months have seen changes to the Library possibly as wide ranging as any in its history. Half of its collections, built up since the last centwy, have been dispersed, much of it to scholarly libraries in Britain and the Commonwealth, under a FCO trust deed which gives the Office continued access rights. N onethe1ess the remaining core collection geared to present day needs still includes historically valuable materials, some of which are mentioned in this note. Relocated alongside the Durbar Court, nearer to its users, the Library has been restructured to reflect the Office's division into AUS commands, has cut staff and broadened the range of its services. This short note, compiled by the Office's historians from answers to questions about the Library, marks this sea change in the Library's role.

March 1993

Richard Bone Library and Records Department




The Foreign Oflice Library, 1801.1914 Diverse Duties Research and Publications Staffing and Overload



Open DiplolDaCY,

1 2 4


Access and Academics The Parker and Gaselee Eras

5 7

Post-war Directions, 1945.1993


Research Department and Library Library and Records Department


Library CoUections


Photographs Memorabilia


Library Penonalide.






Library Memoranda





I THE FOREIGN OITICE LIBRARY, 1801-1914 fIt must be obvious tIwJ, to render the librarion's department of the Foreign Office as dJicimt as it ought to be, all the corresporul.ence and tmUies should be under the roof of the offite itseV; there is no divisible period in OUf fuMp tiffairs, nor tZ1!' limit to 0fl1 rtSetlfcbes.' Lewis Herts1et, 1858

Diverse Duties Lord Granville, Foreign Secretary in Gladstone's second and third administrations, once described the Foreign Office Library as the 'pivot on which the whole machinery of the Foreign Office turned'. This compliment to the hardworking and underpaid officials of one of the Office's oldest departments was an apt description of an institution whose responsibilities and functions exceeded those usually associated with librarians. Neither Richard Ancell, who became in 1801 the Foreign Office's first Librarian and Keeper of the Papers, nor his nineteenthcentury successors, Lewis and Edward Hertslet, ever conceived of their work as limited solely to the care and provision of printed books. The duties of the Librarian, as laid down in 1828, included 'the custody of the whole of the correspondence of the Office (exclusive of that of the current year) ... and the custody of the original treaties with Foreign Powers.' He was also required to superintend a register and index of correspondence, arrange for its binding, make searches into it, and assist in arranging and preparing parliamentary papers for printing. He had, at the same time, to oversee and control the accounts of the King's Messengers. It was this duality of function, the Librarian's role both as archivist and custodian of an ever-growing collection of printed works, which gave the department its peculiar significance. The ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Hertslets, for whom the Library became virtually a family business, ensured its enduring influence on the making and conduct of policy. In an age when Britain's position in Europe was at its greatest and when an expanding imperial frontier called for an accurate and instant grasp of recent developments in Africa and Asia, the Library became, in effect, the Office's collective memory. It provided detailed information, offered guidance on precedents, and acted as a centre for research into the international issues of the day. Throughout most of the nineteenth century the Librarian's Department comprised four basic elements: the manuscript library, the printed library, the registry and the reference room. At first, however, the very term 'library' was, in the words of Edward Hertslet, a 'misnomer' when applied to the Office's printed collection of books. There was little space for books in the rickety premises occupied by the old Foreign Office in Downing and Fludyer Streets. Volumes were dispersed throughout the passages of the Office, wherever shelves could be erected, and access to them was further impeded by their usually being stacked in rows three deep, one behind the other. The manuscript library, which by 1840 amounted to some 5,000 volumes, was hardly better accommodated. A large part of the collection was kept in the reference room on the ground floor, but other volumes were scattered about the Office in locked wooden presses which were far from fireproof. Indeed, the Library came close to losing a substantial portion of its manuscript collection when in 1839 an unswept chimney flue led to a fire in the reference room.


The library's proximity to the street also exposed it to th ri k of ming th Office's first line of defence in the event of civil unrest. In April 1848, at th h· ght of the Chartist troubles, so great was the fear that an unruly mob might attack r government buildings that the Downing Street windows of th r fi r nc r om blocked with books, leaving loopholes for observation and discharg of hot. rownbess muskets were brought from the Tower of London, cutlas s w r uppli d to staff, and Edward Hertslet, at that time a clerk in the Departm nt, was nroll d in the special constabulary and provided with a truncheon. The Library survived Chartism unscathed. It did not escap th di ruption attendant upon the demolition of the Downing Street buildings in 1861 and th temporary removal of the Office to Pembroke House in Whit hall Gard ns. Th it occupied a kitchen, cellars and adjoining rooms where the librarian w r abl to reorganise their collection of printed works and register the mc's arly correspondence. It was not until the completion of the new For ign Offi building in 1868 that the Library was housed in purpose-built accommodation. Only th n were officials able to appreciate fully the true quality and numb r of th tom in the Office's possession. By 1871 the Library already contain d 30,000 books and this figure was doubled when just three years later the Board of Trad Library was transferred to the Foreign Office. The printed collection consist d larg ly of wor on historical, geographical and internation,al subjects on which th cr tary of State was likely to require infonnation, complemented by an analytical catalogu which filled a volume of 700 pages. Moreover, whereas much of th 0 ign Office's correspondence had previously been kept at th Stat Pap r Ollic , af1 r 1868 the entire correspondence from 1783 onwards was availabl on th pr mi s. This was of considerable advantage at a time wben the Library was incr asingly being called upon for memoranda based on detailed archival r arch. The adv nt of electric telegraphy had hastened the pace of diplomacy and placed a p mium on the Librarian being able to respond speedily to queries that could only be answered from the records.

Research aad kwis Hertslet, Librarian from 1810 to 1857, had a clear grasp of th importan of adapting his Department's resources to meet the requirements of th Office. Research into the records was facilitated by his introduction of a Library syst m of registering and indexing manuscript correspondence. He was al 0 r sponsibl for compiling, from 1813 onwards, a Public Documents Book, a newspap r scrapbook which contained cuttings from reputable journals recording important political developments. Of more lasting significance was his work on diplomatic docum nts. In 1820 he published, as a private undertaking, but with a guarante d ord r from the Office, two volumes of Commlrcial and Slave Tradl Treaties. ix y ars lat r, appeared the first volume of Hertslet's classic work of re£ r nce, British and Fortign State Papers. Originally intended only for distribution to memb rs of th Government and British missions abroad, this collection of tr ati and oth r political and commercial documents, went on general sale in 1831 and continu d until 1968. As a by-product of work on this series, Hertsl t b gan drafting memoranda for the Office on a variety of international issues. In 1823 h P pa d the first of these on the origins and evolution of the Anglo-Portugu s allian , an important subject at a time when George Canning, the th n For ign c tary, was preparing to defend Portugal against a possible Spanish invasion. anning rewarded Hertslet with £50 for this work, which was regard d as an addition to hi normal duties. The Office's demand for such authoritativ pap rs was to in r steadily and it soon became the Librarian's most important task.


Lewis Hertslet became a great authority on all subjects involving international, historical and geographical matters affecting British interests. He was, in the words of one Foreign Secretary, a 'Walking State Paper', and as Harold Temperley, Canning's biographer, later observed, he 'not seldom, exercised a powerful influence on policy'. The library's output both before and during the Crimean War provides an excellent example of the extent of its activities. It produced, often at very short notice, numerous papers covering such topics as the status of the Aland islands, the Russian occupation of Moldavia and Wallachia and the Ottoman firman on the independence of Circassia. Hertslet's department was remarkably small. Until 1826, when a clerk was appointed to assist them, it consisted of the Librarian and a Sub-librarian. By 1841 the library still had only two clerks and three supernumeraries in its employ. Thereafter its establishment grew steadily in size, so that by 1892 it had ten clerks and twelve supernumeraries. In 1810 Lewis Hertslet's brother, James, was appointed Sub-Librarian, and from 1840 onwards Lewis's son, Edward, served as clerk and supernumerary. Edward succeeded his uncle as Sub-librarian in 1855 and his father as librarian in 1857. Even before joining, Edward Hertslet had assisted his father at home in preparing his publications, and after his appointment as Librarian he continued his father's work of compiling reference works from the Office records. The modification of frontiers which followed the Crimean War led him to propose the publication of a series of documents recording political and territorial changes in Europe between 1814 and 1855, which eventually materialised in the form of a four-volume Map of Europe I!J Trea!J. He also undertook the editing of a parallel series, The Map of 4frica by Trell9, the third and final volume of which eventually appeared in 1909. So great was Edward Hertslet's knowledge of the political geography of Europe and of Mrica that he was included in the British delegations to both the Congress of Berlin in 1878, which was responsible for redrawing the frontiers of the Near East, and the Berlin West Mrica Conference of 1884-5, which dealt with the claims of the European powers in the Niger and Congo basins. Like his father, Edward devoted much of his time to researching and supervising the drafting of detailed memoranda, covering the geographical and historical background of international problems. These ranged from dissertations on the navigation of the Danube and the Elbe, to studies of the frontiers of Bosnia and Serbia and the territorial aspirations of Venezuela (see page 14 for further examples). They were, for the most part, based upon the Library's own vast collection of manuscript correspondence, printed boc;>ks, confidential print, law officers' reports, newspapers and maps, and usually produced in response to requests from the Office's political departments. Increasingly during the latter half of the nineteenth century Library memoranda dealt with subjects which were closely related to current problems and began to contain observations on possible solutions. The political transformation of Europe in the yean between 1853 and 1871, and the competing claims of other powers to territory and influence in parts of the world where Britain had once exercised an infonnal pre-eminence, combined to place new demands on those responsible for making and implementing foreign policy. In consequence, Hertslet and his colleagues found themselves drafting papen that would once have originated elsewhere in the Office, with the line between historical and current work becoming increasingly b~~d.. ~ere was no generally accepted agreement within the Office on what was histonca1 and what was 'recent'. In 1853 it was suggested that the term 'recent' should encompass the previous twenty years. However, as was


apparent even at the time, the present could not be so easily separat d from th past: most current conflicts and crises had historical antec dents and all att mpts to prevent hard-pressed senior clerks from devolving their research to th Library were to end in failure. Between 1875 and 1887 the Library produced an annual av rag of 241 memoranda, and in 1889 alone it drafted over 300, many of which w r printed for circulation within the Office and the Cabinet. Indeed, Edmond Hammond, the Permanent Under-Secretary, confessed in 1870 that without th Library 'no Secretary of State and no Senior Clerk could carry on th busin s of their respective divisions.' Staffing aDd Overload Despite such praise one persistent cause of complaint on the part of th Librarians was their lowly status within the Office. Their position also puzzl d th Royal Commission on Civil Establishments which in 1890 gave serious consid ration to amalgamating the Library clerks with those of the main body of th Offic. If implemented the move might have eroded the Library as a separat unit by depriving it of individuals with whose experience and expertise it could ill-afford to dispense. Augustus Oakes, who was to succeed Edward Hertslet in 1896, offi r d his own remedy to this dilemma. In December 1894, when still a Sub-Librarian, h proposed renaming the department 'Library and Intelligence Department', and restructuring it in such a way as to give its clerks equivalent but distinct ranking to that pertaining elsewhere in the Office. 'The existence of a central source of information embracing every subject and covering every quarter of th globe cannot', he observed, 'fail to be acknowledged to be of importance by thos who have the knowledge and the experience to appreciate it.'

Oakes inherited from Hertslet a department composed of a Sub-Librarian, thre staff officers, five second division, and ten supernumerary, clerks. It comprised six branches: General Duties, the Manuscript Library, the Printed Library, the Reference Room, the preparation of memoranda, and the Registry. By the tum of the century the Printed Library was once more short of space in which to accommodate its heterogeneous collection, and books were being shelved by size rather than subject. But it was the Registry which gave the Librarian most persistent cause for concern. Registration work was almost invariably in arrears, largely because of the long delays which occurred in the binding of corr spondence and in its transfer from other departments to the Library. The Foreign Office refonns of 1906 established a new central Registry, which was to have responsibility for all correspondence from its receipt in the Office until its transfer to the Public Record Office. The new system was not, however, wholly successful since it involved considerable duplication and tended to d lay th circulation of papers. The Library also remained far behind in the ind xing of correspondence and its records seem to suggest that it was insufficiendy staffi d to cope with the more urgent demands of other sections of the Office. Much of Oakes' time was spent in devising solutions to these problems, but as h acknowledged in 1897 when reflecting on the shortcomings of the ind x: 'It is no easy matter to suggest a workable remedy for the state of things ... and any rem dy must of course involve expense.'




tUnder 1'IIIX1em conditions, an offia sru:Ja as tile Foreign 0jJice cannot /wid its own unless in some wqy or another it IiIkes tI&e Jw.hlic inID its eotifUJmte more tJum it Iw done in IN pflSL ' James Headlam-Morley, 1918

Access and Acadesnics

As custodians of the archives the Hertslets and their successors occupied a particularly sensitive position where relations between the Office and the general public were concerned. Throughout the nineteenth century the Librarians assisted in the preparation of Blue Books; they alerted the Secretaries and Under-Secretaries of State to impending parliamentary questions; published state papers and responded to outside queries; 路and acted through the courts to prevent the sale and sometimes examination of documents belonging to the Crown. They were paradoxically both publicists and censors. In these respects their duties were very similar to those of the archivists and librarians of other foreign ministries. But in one important respect the British lagged behind their continental neighbours. Both the French and Prussian governments had, very largely with a view to promoting patriotic histories and creating an informed public opinion, embarked upon ambitious programmes of publishing diplomatic documents whose scope was far broader than the volumes of State Papers initiated by Lewis Hertslet. German historians, in co-operation with Prussian archivists, emerged as pacesetters in analysing the recent past, while in 1907 the Quai d'Orsay, whose Commission des Archives Diplmnatiques had long since begun to foster close ties between academics and diplomats, decided to sponsor the publication of a series of documents relating to the origins of the Franco-Prussian war. Comparable British initiatives date from the outbreak of the First World War. There can be few other events that have stimulated a greater public interest in the history and methods of diplomacy and it was in response to the propaganda battle over the origins of the war that the Library opened its doors to outside historians. Early in 1915 John Holland Rose of Christ's College, Cambridge, was provided with papers and a desk on the second floor of the Library so that he might start work on a monograph which the former Prime Minister, AJ Balfour, hoped would offer the public a 'general conception of the German policy which has led up to the present catastrophe.' Then, in July 1916, Professor James Headlam, who had been recruited by the Propaganda Bureau at Wellington House and who, with the assistance of the Library, had already written and published a history of the war crisis of 1914, was requested by the Foreign Secretary, Lord Grey, to prepare a specimen volume of pre-war diplomatic documents on the Bosnian crisis of 1908-9. Headlam or Headlam-Morley, as he was known from 1918 onwards, was subsequently to become a key figure in persuading the Office to adopt a new approach towards the release and pUblication of documents. In the spring of 1918 he became deputy director of the newly-formed Political Intelligence Department, a body which later included such scholarly figures as Arnold Toynbee, Lewis N amier and Alfred Zimmem. At a time when David Uoyd George was expounding British war aims along radical-populist lines and when President Woodrow Wilson was appealing for 'Open covenants of peace, openly arrived at', Headlam-Morley urged on his colleagues the need for the Office to do all that it could to educate the public o.n. fore~gn policy. The so:caIled 'New Diplomacy' required new responses from Bn~sh diplomats. The public, Heacllam-Morley insisted, had come to regard the FOrelgn Office as aloof, and that aloofness 'must tend to diminish the weight


and authority of the Office.' Headlam-Morley's arguments were strongly supported by the new Librarian, Alwyn Parker, who initiated a lively debate within the Office on how best to make more of its records available to modem historians. In 1919 the Foreign Office archives were opened to the public up to 1860 and scholars were able to secure permission to see documents beyond that dat for sp cHic projects. In 1924 the open period was extended to 1875 and the d cision tak n to publish records after that date in the official series British Documents on 1M Origins oj the War, 1898-1914. These developments were a direct response to the German diplomatic ofTensiv on the origins of the war. Hardly had signatures been appended to the Versaill s tr aty before German historians began their assault on the treaty's over-confident assertion that the war had been 'imposed' upon the allied and associated powers 'by the aggression of Germany and her allies': a claim which was of more than mere historical significance since it was intended to serve as the legal basis for allied demands for the payment of reparations. Vital documents from the archives in Berlin, Petrograd and Vienna had already been released in the immediate aftermath of the war, and these and those published in the Wilh Imstrasse's own series, Die Gro.fte Politik tier europiiischen Kabinetlt, 1871-1914, the first volume of which, published in 1922, seemed to add credence to the Gennan case. By 1926 when the first British volume appeared, the German interpretation of events was wellestablished and was to have a considerable impact on the writing of recent history in Europe and the United States. The German view that the real cause of the war had been the Russian mobilisation, which the British had done nothing to halt, soon passed into the textbooks of the period. This, in turn, did much to create a climate of opinion in the United States which was sympathetic to Germany and subsequently susceptible to Gennan propaganda that played upon the 'injustice' of the VersaiUes Dikto.t. The continuing debate on the origins of the First World War and its relevance to Britain's relations with other powers meant that during the 1920s the staff of the Library were involved to a much larger extent than before in dealings with the general public. In an age when there was much talk of the democratic control of diplomacy the Library was active in promoting policies of greater openness both as regards access and publication. Headiam-Morley, who became the Office's first Historical Adviser in 1920, encouraged the Office to respond generously to access requests, particularly from American scholars. 'On general grounds', he noted in August 1920, 'it is certainly desirable, and I think very important, that we should encourage younger American historians who are taking up European History to come to London and thereby get them to approach these questions from a point of view sympathetic to this country.' At the same time he sought through his own writings and contacts with other historians to promote a scholarly inter st in Britain's pre-war diplomacy, and was only too keen to ensure that the recoIl ctions of fonner ministers and diplomats were factually accurate. The Office was usually prepared to heed Headiam-Morley's advice on access to the archives. It was, however, capable of assuming a more niggardly attitude when it came to handling requests from fonner ministers to the Library for assistance in preparing their memoirs and to the Library's vetting of diplomatic r coll ction and reminiscences. As Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon was willing to make an xampl of any minor delinquent. When in 1921 Captain Peter Wright, a s cretary and interpreter of the Supreme War Council, published his memoirs, Curzon sw pt aside objections that more significant military figures had already revealed official


secrets. 'If we cannot cut off the head of a poppy', he protested, 'that is no reason why we cannot decapitate a daisy.' The Parker and Gaselee Eras Throughout these d velopments, Headlam-Morley enjoyed the strong support of Librarians Alwyn Parker and Stephen Gaselee. These two Librarians of the interwar years each had their own distinctive style and to some extent succeeded in moulding the Library to it. The New Year appointment in 1918 of a career diplomat, Alwyn Parker, as Librarian was a political move designed to put the Library at the forefront of planning for the Peace Conference. When making the appointment, Lord Hardinge, then PUS, intended that the Library should not only handle the organisation and accommodation for the British delegation at Paris, but should also provide them with the necessary historical briefing. One of Parker's first acts as Librarian was to transfer the Admiralty's Historical Section to the Foreign Office Library. The new section, which was accommodated in Great College Street, had originally been established in the spring of 191 7 under the supervision of George Prothero, the editor of the Qjuzrter[y Review, to prepare historical background for the peace negotiations. It used some of the country's best historical talent and its transfer to the Foreign Office greatly expanded the Library's traditional function of providing information to diplomats. By February 1918 the Section, which remained under Prothero's direction, had a staff of fifteen and had begun work on the production of its celebrated peace handbooks. These eventually numbered 174, many of which, including Professor Charles Webster's classic work The Congress of Vzmna, were subsequently published in an expurgated form. Parker himself spent the last months of his short tenure of the Library as a delegate at the Peace Conference, where he was heavily involved in organisational matters, the stresses of which may have contributed to his breakdown and premature retirement He was succeeded in 1920 by Stephen Gaselee, a classical scholar and Cambridge Fellow. In some contrast to Parker's regime, the Gaselee era was characterised by attention to internal affairs, notably the library'S collection of printed books, which according to his biographer he increased significantly, 'missing no single publication, in whatever language, which bore usefully upon foreign affairs; he also ensured that diplomatic missions abroad were likewise appropriately provided, not infrequently at his own expense.' Gaselee himself was to describe the Library stock near the end of his twenty-three year term as 'a pretty good collection for its purpose. It consists of some 80,000 volumes, well catalogued under authors and subjects, and is naturally strong in treaties, treaty collections, books on international law, the laws of foreign countries, and a certain number of official journals and parliamentary proceedings of foreign countries. Its few rarities come under a heading of "Voyages and travels" (old books still valuable for treaty delimitations and arguments as to frontiers): and the collection of modern books on politics and political history is on the whole adequate.' Gaselee publicised the contents of the new Library stock by circulating notices of recent accessions round the Office. These accession lists not only listed new titles but also briefly surveyed their contents. These abstracts were prepared by Gaselee himself, who reckoned in 1940 that 20 years work of producing these abstracts added up to about a million words. ~ individwd in the Offia wiJj, 1M opproval of the HeIJI1 of his Dtpartmmt can at ~ momml call upon ~ ~~ for a ~ondum containing the past history - both 1M prectdt:nts and the ÂŤbull story - oj D7!1 qrustwn an.nng VI 1M manifold worIc oj the Servia. 1M Librarilln and his slid[ thus form a kind of inJelligena hllTtJlDl, as rtgtmJs tdl PMt events, for 1M rest of tIae 0jJia, oM produce their results nuzinb' from the ""ortis, ond partg.fonn historiaJ/. and other works in 1M prinIed Library.'

Sir John Tilley and Stephen Gaselee, 1933




Research Department and Library The Foreign Office Research Department had come into being as a result of the amalgamation between the Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office, revived in 1939, and the Foreign Research and Press Service of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House). This amalgamation took effect from 1 April 1943, and the new department moved to London from its previous locations at Woburn Abbey and Oxford. The unrelenting demand for specialists to advise on post-war policy, plus the arrival in the Foreign Office of captured Gennan Foreign Ministry documents which needed expert treatment, appear to have been major factors in the decision to make FORD a permanent department of the Foreign Office and to merge it with the library. On 1 April 1946 the offices of Dir ctor of Research and Librarian and Keeper of the Papers were accordingly combined in the person of Mr E J Passant, a distinguished Cambridge scholar and former head of the German section of FORD. The new Department was called Research Department and Library. The archives were hived off into a separate department, but all elements were united under Mr Passant as the single head. The Research element was divided into geographical sections, each corresponding to the geographical departments of the Foreign路 Office. Its main purpose was to study the historical background of current problems of foreign policy and to provide the geographical departments with memoranda and notes required for formulating foreign policy. Meanwhile a reconstituted Historical Section contributed to the Four-power programme for the publication of the captured German records, in tandem with a new programme for the publication of Documents on JJritirh Foreign Policy, 1919-39, whereby it was decided to proceed with the publication of the Munich records less than 10 years after the event. In parallel with these developments the information services of the printed Library were maintained so that in addition to the custody and supply of printed books, maps and periodicals, registered correspondence, confidential print and official papers, the Library continued to provide basic information on questions of fact or procedure drawing on the resources of the whole of the Department to form in the words of Ernest Passant 'a kind of information bureau, as regards all past vents and matters of procedure, for the rest of the Office.'

Library and Records DepU1meDt In 1950 the Department moved to Cornwall House, which had the advantage of placing all departmental resources under one roof. However, this was balanced by the disadvantages of distancing the Researchers from their corresponding political departments in the Main Building, and of discouraging members of the Office from 'dropping in' to use Library resources at first hand. Nonetheless far from atrophying, the Research Department and Library continued to develop apace. In 1954 a proposal for separating the growing elements was supported by Passante It was five more years before the first steps towards dividing functions took place, cemented in 1966 by the separate appointments of a Director of Research and a Librarian and Keeper of the Papers. The merger of the Foreign Office with the Commonwealth Office in 1968 and consequent merging of the Library collections in Sanctuary Buildings began a new era in the history of the Library. Henceforward Library information services, underpinned by the reabsorbed


archives and continuing historical r search, became the mainspring of the new Department, renam d Library and Records Department in 1968. Following the evacua 'on of Sanctuary Buildings in 1987 the Downing Street Library was establish d in th former Colonial Office Library and the Historical and Commonw alth I gal colle tions were properly housed for the first time in Cornwall Hous . Th r location of the Library to quarters adjacent to the Durbar Court in the main CO Building in 1992 was timed to coincide with a decision to re-organise Library rvi ; th most obvious manifestation being the formation of specialist 't ams' r ponsible for services to specific AUS commands. Changes in 1992 also saw th discarding of surplus printed material with the bookstock being reduced by half, from 34,000 to 17,000 feet of shelf-space. This has resulted in a physically small r library, I s r sembling that of a learned institution, but geared to the modem needs of the Office. Today the Library has access to vast stores of knowledge through the medium of computer technology and modern telecommunications.


IV LIBRARY COLLECTIONS The achievements of the past remain well represented in the present Library collections, which still include some of the old books, maps and pamphlets relating to travel, exploration and the early development of the Commonwealth.

Photographs Photographs of Britain's overseas Dependencies collected by the Colonial Office from the 1860's form the core of the photographic collection. Outstanding from this early period 1S the set of street views of Toronto taken in 1856, the views of Sydney and its harbour dating from 1870 and the panorama of Singapore taken from St Andrew's Church spire in 1863. The old Foreign Office Libraty had no comparable collection of photographs, save for odd items such as albums of the Boxer rebellion in China, sent to the Foreign Office for safe-keeping by the British Legation in Peking in 1900. Following the merger of the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices in 1968, the scope of the collection widened to include foreign as well as Commonwealth countries, and the acquisition of material from the Central Office of Information provided portrait photographs of senior diplomats as well as prints of international conferences and meetings in the post-war era. .

Memorabilia The photographic and rare books collections were matched at one time by a unique stamp collection and miscellaneous memorabilia which, being deemed unsuitable to adorn the offices or corridors of the FO building, found their way into the Library. This featured various exotic items, such as carved statues, drums, and assorted weaponry, including flintlock muskets, spears, and what appeared to be a small cannon, designed to be mounted on the deck-rail of a Man 0' War. Under Trust Deed arrangements most of this collection has now been transferred to the new Museum of Commonwealth and Empire at Bristol, while the stamp collection now forms part of the publicly accessible British Library philatelic collection. Pride of place is still accorded to the stuffed and mounted Anaconda, which for many years hung in the old eRO Library in Downing Street East. It is said to have been presented to the Colonial Secretary by the Bishop of Guiana at some point in the nineteenth century. Over the years it became a familiar and popular, if slightly sinister feature of the Downing Street Libraty and like the Library itself, is currently undergoing refurbishment and reconstruction and will be restored to place with the re-opening of the Downing Street Libraty in 1995.


V LIBRARY PERSONALITIES A Librarian', declared the President of the Librarians' Conference in 1877, 'should not be a mere guardian of books. He must be an educator.' The exhortation was particularly applicable to the work of the Foreign Office Librarians, some of whom are described below.

Lewis Hertslet (1810-57) Few officials did more to inform Victorian England about the achievements of its diplomacy and none exercised a more consistent influence on any single department of the nineteenth-century Foreign Office than did the father and son partnership of Lewis and Edward Hertslet. Their family was of Swiss origin, Lewis being the eldest son of Jean Louis Pierre Hertzlett (fonnerly Hiertzelet), who had become a King's Messenger at the time of the French Revolutionary wars. A mere boy of fourteen when, in 1801, he was appointed sublibrarian to Richard Ancell, Lewis remained in the Foreign Office until his retirement over 56 years later. It was his long experience in the Library and his devotion to publishing departmental records which made him a vital source of information on international affairs and an authority on the history of almost all matters pertaining to the making and conduct of foreign policy. Edward Hertslet (1857-96) resembled Lewis in many respects. He was sixteen when he received his first temporary appointment in the Library, and prior to that he had already helped his father with his editing of state papers. He too was to become, as Sir Philip Currie observed, 'wonderfully conversant with every treaty and every past question.' Later in retirement, he wrote his Recollections oj the Old Foreign Offu;e~ a work which remains one of the most amusing and informative accounts of the functioning of a Victorian Department of State.

Augustus Oakes (1896-1905) was an altogether less colourful figure than his immediate predecessor. An authority on intemationallaw and treaties, his career in the Library spanned some 46 years. He was noted for his accuracy, good judgement and ease of expression and, after his retirement in 1905, he co-authored with the Oxford historian, R B Mowat, a work on nineteenth-century European treaties. He was also, by instinct, a reformer, and his efforts to restructure his department and secure greater recognition for its services played a small but significant part in initiating reforms which transformed the Foreign Office in the early years of this century. Alwyn Parker (1918.19) was not a librarian by profession. He had begun his career as a diplomat and was appointed Librarian in 1918 at the behest of the Permanent Under-Secretary, Lord Hardinge, who was anxious to have someone in charge of the Library who would take responsibility for planning and preparing for a peace conference. The task was a formidable one and Parker devoted a good deal of his time to producing elaborate charts setting out the Office's proposals for the organization of the British delegation. One of these depicted Britain's representatives in various colours with prime ministers and dominion delegates whirling, in the words of Harold Nicolson, 'each in his proper orbit, coloured green, or red, or blue', with Parker himself 'revolving as a moon, attendant upon Jupiter, Lord Hardinge of Penshurst.'

Sir St~p~eD Gasele~ (1920-43) was a star in his own galaxy. He was one of the most Slgntficant twentIeth century successors to the Hertslets, and an unmistakable 11

figure in his cutaway tailcoat, spats, red socks and Old Etonian bow tie (with silk top hat for outdoor wear). A classical scholar, an expert on Coptic studies and a formidable personality, Gaselee had little interest in anything that he could not treat in scholarly fashion. This he applied to all points from obscure points of philology to the suggestion that ice should be dropped into champagne: 'A thesis' he remarked, 'which will hardly commend itself to a serious drinker.' Within the Foreign Office, Gaselee raised both the profile and status of the Library in the inter-war years. He became an expert on the Office's history and administration, and the small volume which, in 1933, he co-authored with a former Chief Clerk, John Tilley, on the Foreign Office is still an indispensable source of infonnation.

Ernest Passant (1946-55) was the first to hold jointly the posts of Director of Research and Librarian and Keeper of the Papers in the Foreign Office. Passant developed Gaselee's policy of 'Current Awareness' by adding a periodicals abstracting service to the accessions list. He broke with tradition by restricting the hitherto unlimited period allowed for the borrowing of books, and forbade the taking of library books out of the country - whilst the rules were doubtless more honoured in the breach than the undertaking, it was a positive step towards a closer control over Library resources.




Richard Ancell appointed as 1st Librarian and Keeper of the Papers


Lewis Hertslet


Edward Hertslet


Augustus Oakes


Lansdowne Reforms


Alwyn Parker


Stephen Gaselee


James HeacDam-Morley appointed as Historical Adviser


Foreign Office Research Department formed from Political Intelligence Department (revived 1939) and Foreign Research and Press Service of Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House).


Library and Archives Department fonned


Ernest Passant appointed as 1st Director of Research and Librarian and Keeper of the Papers, heading newly formed Research Department and Library. Archives Department hived off.


Duncan Wilson appointed as Director of Research and Acting Librarian and Keeper of the Papers


Research Department and the Library become separate departments but still linked at the top under the Director of Research who remains Librarian and Keeper of the Papers


Separation of Library and Research Department


Library and Records Department formed from the FO . and Commonwealth Office Libraries and reabsorbed Archives Department


LRD becomes part of Information Systems DivisiCJn



The origins of the Library memoranda date back to the Hertslet period (see pages 2-4). The series, complete in 46 volumes, comprises some 116,000 memoranda covering the period 1875-1955 and is available from Historical Branch, LRD . They include: 'Ta.rkisIa and Serviaa claims to Little Zvol'llik', No 143 by Edward Hertslet, 21

December 1876. 'lastance. in which British ship. of war have beea .eat to foreign ports for the protection of live. and property of British .ubjects', No 263 by Edward Hertslet, 30

January ·1878. 'Access ofhistorialls and others to the Foreip Omce archive.', No 351 by Edward

Hertslet, 1 October 1878. 'OccauOllS when Great BritaJa has heea eappdm hosdlide. without the cOllSeat of Parlhunent', No 372 by Edward Hertslet, 9 December 1878.

'Amb •••• dor• •t R.oyal .upper table.', No 720 by Frederick H enry Thomas

Streatfeild, 3 March 1881. 'ChBDDel T1IDIle1 (with Appeadb)' No 965 by Edward Hertslet, 13 March 1882.

'Ript .of ships ·of war to pa.. ap Slaatt-el-Arab', No 1148 by Edward Hertslet, 12

Marro 1883. 'Belize or British Hoadaru. British rights of Hvereipty over', No 2104 by Edward

Hertslet, 21 March 1887. 'How the Emperor of the Freacla came to be .tyled N.poleoa III', No 2839 by

Edward Hertslet, 21 December 1889. 'Claim of the ArgeatiDe R.epublic to the Falkland I ....d.', No 7829 by Gaston de

Bernhardt, 15 November 1910. 'Sketch 01 eveats III ArmeaJa, Azerbaijaa . .d Georp& Dce 1917', No 1020 I by John

W Field, 22 December 1926. 'Aagio-ChineH COIlveadOll 011898 reprdiag Hoag KOIlg eaeaaioa', No 11095 by

Hugh Kingham Grey, 30 September 1937. 'FrOiltier betweea Iraq and Koweit', No 11130 by Charles Henry Fone, 21 May

1938. 'Hider'. mU;t.ry career', No 11322 by Robert Currie Thomson, 3 December 1942. 'Aag1o-Soviet cliscauloaa of 1944 reprcllag sphere. of iaflueace III the Balk...', No

11478 by Charles Henry Fone, 12 January 1953.



Librarian and Keeper of the Th si , University of London,

Shin y Hall, Papers of th 1958). Sir Edward

rul t, Rec

Ray Jon s, The (London, 1971 ).

• ete


til C atary Foreip omce. All AclmiaUtrative History

M Rop r, The Records or (HMSO, 1969). Sir John Till


ortlae Old Forelp Oftice (London, 1901).

e Foreip Oflice, 1782-1939, PRO Handbook No. 13

phen G

I , Tlae Forelp OfBce (London, 1933).

Uri Bialer,' lling th truth to th people: Britain's d cision to publish diplomatic papers of th int r-war period', Historical Joanud, vol 26 (1983), pp 349-67. Erik Goldst in, 'Hi torian Outsid the Academy: G W Prothero and the Experi nce of th o· gn OBi Historical Section, 191 7-20', Hiatorical Research, vol 63 (1990), pp 195-211.

Keith Hamilton, 'Th Pursuit of "Enlightened Patriotism": the British Foreign Office and . torical R ar rs during the Great War and its Aftermath', Historical Re , 01 61 (1988), pp 316-44. Margar t P Ily, 'Editing Documents on British Policy Overseas, 1945-1955', Diplomacy aad Statecraft, 01 1 (1990), pp 90-8. Margar t Cousins,' ig riana in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Library', A&iaua reaearcla aad Docameatadc.a, vol 55 (1991), pp 44-7.


FCO Library: Print, Paper and Publications, 1782-1993  

A guide looking back at one of the Foreign Office’s oldest departments and tracking the many changes it has seen in over two hundred years...

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