The English Historical Review/Volume 37/Some Early Foreign Office Registers in the Public Record Office

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Some Early Foreign Office Registers at the Public Record Office

In view of the statement made before the late Royal Commission on Public Records that the registration of correspondence by the Foreign Office began in 1810 and that the appropriate registers and indexes are still preserved in that department,[1] the following notes on certain early, rough registers which have been transferred, together with the great majority of the Foreign Office records, to the Public Record Office may be of some use to the student of those archives, who may have noted the reference numbers endorsed on much of the correspondence of this period without being in a position to refer to the actual records of the system employed, while it is understood that the series of registers at Whitehall are to this day of such present use that their transfer—even that of the earliest volumes—is extremely improbable. The volumes hereunder to be described are preserved among the first miscellaneous series (class F.O. 95) of the Foreign Office records and appear to have been duplicated or abstracted from the general registers for the immediate convenience of the two provinces. Those of the north (F.O. 95/381, 382, 446, and 447) are intermittent, of no great value and somewhat carelessly compiled, but, on the contrary, the registers of the south (F.O. 95/380 and 383–6) form a complete and handy chronological series of in-letters and of many, if not most, of the out-letters from December 1809 to December 1816, each of the former kind being entered under its registration number. There remains one unimportant, isolated volume (F.O. 95/448), covering apparently both provinces and perhaps compiled from a point of view unconnected with the traditional division. All, except F.O. 95/386, 447 and 448, are stamped[2] 'Diary',[3] and this contemporary nomenclature, adopted, as to F.O. 95/380–6, in the compilation of the official list,[4] has tended to obscure their import. An incidental result of the employment of these registers will be the definite identification as such of those 'Southern' Foreign Office papers which have strayed into the Wellesley and Liverpool collections of the British Museum.[5]

C. S. B. Buckland.

  1. First Report of the Royal Commission on Public Records, iii. 57–8, 99. 1663, 1700 (evidence of Mr. R. W. Brant, librarian of the Foreign Office). Cf. Second Report, i. 17, ii. 11.
  2. On F.O. 95/447 'Register' is written by hand. F.O. 95/448 lacks inscription, both front and back, while part of the back of F.O. 95/386 is now missing.
  3. The lettering is contemporary.
  4. See Public Record Office, Lists and Indexes, xli. 129.
  5. See [C.] H. Jenkinson, Manual of Archive Administration, p. 158, n. 1, ad init.