The Foreign Office was created in 1782 and merged to become the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 1968. The historical library collection of the FCO was transferred to Kings College London in 2007 on permanent loan. The collection comprises of over 80,000 items to include photographs and manuscripts. For the historian this is an excellent primary resource. As the FCO was the department responsible for the conduct of relations with nearly all foreign states they are a window to Britain’s colonial past covering subjects such as slavery and the abolition of, railways, expeditions, diplomatic relations and war.
The majority of the collection is housed in the Foyle Special Collections Library. Anyone can view the collections though if you are not a member of Kings College a prior appointment is advisable. The collection is not lending but copies can be supplied and readers are allowed to use their own cameras. Approximately 50% of the collection is not catalogued but the library team welcome enquiries about subject coverage and will locate relevant material for viewing. For material that is catalogued the main library catalogue can be used.
The records of the department and staff itself are held by The National Archives who also hold substantial collections of FCO material.
For a quick overview please see the introductory leaflet.
Hannah Chandler, Bodleian Libraries Oxford