Foreign Office Confidential Prints – new searchable database

Our colleagues over in Official Papers in the Bodleian have created a searchable online database of the Foreign Office Confidential Prints. From the 1820s papers of significance began to be distributed to officials in the Foreign Office, Cabinet and other departments as Confidential Prints. The practice grew until the 1850s when nearly every important dispatch or telegram was routinely printed. The Confidential Prints vary in format from a single page to a substantial volume, many have maps (we have over 700) and diagrams. The documents are numbered 1-10,600 (1827-1914) in roughly order of printing.

For the historian this is an incredible set of primary source documents. They are a window to Britain’s colonial past covering subjects such as slavery, railways, expeditions, diplomatic relations and war, from Abyssinia to Zanzibar. For Americanists, a search on ‘United States’ brings back nearly 800 records.

The index, ‘List of Confidential Papers Relating to Foreign Affairs’ (No. 10330, covers no.1-10,000) has been transcribed into a database. The index was arranged alphabetically by country, and the documents listed roughly in date order.

You can:

  • search for documents with maps by entering map in the subject box
  • search by jurisdiction, date and document number
  • do a keyword search in the subject box
  • email results in a spreadsheet format.

We do not have a complete set of documents at Oxford, so the search will return

  • whether we have the document or not
  • how many pages it has
  • whether it has any illustrations or maps.

Records for 10,001-10,600 are in the process of being added to the database.

The collection is kept in the Official Papers reading room but is not on open shelf. Staff will be happy to fetch documents on request.

Digital National Security Archive – content update

New on DNSA (via OxLIP+)

The History of the National Security Agency: 1945 to Present

The intensely secretive National Security Agency (NSA) is the United States’ national eavesdropping organization — the largest and most powerful branch of the U.S. intelligence community. It now may also be the most controversial, due to the warrantless domestic eavesdropping programs that the Agency has engaged in since the events of September 11, 2001. This document collection sketches the history of the publicity-shy organization’s
evolution, as it grew from a series of squabbling military cryptologic units on the verge of bankruptcy after the end of World War II, into the massive and immensely powerful intelligence empire of today — with an annual budget of more than $8 billion and a workforce of more than 60,000 soldiers and civilians.

The thousands of documents comprising this set include dozens of newly declassified NSA internal histories and in-house journal articles. These provide, for the first time, a detailed insight into the Agency’s operational successes and failures, and reveal the significant impact that
intelligence originating from NSA has had, both on government policy making and on battlefield decisions by military commanders — for better or for worse. Several hundred formerly Top Secret Codeword intelligence reports and memoranda included in the set were derived partially or in their entirety from Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) originating from the NSA, while several
hundred other declassified documents discuss the Agency’s organizational structure, intelligence collection and analytic operations, personnel and budgetary data, foreign liaison relationships, and sundry other operational matters. A number of formerly Top Secret Codeword assessments, carried out by more than a dozen outside study groups and Blue Ribbon panels (which were
chartered to examine NSA’s operations and capabilities) are highlights of the collection. They provide a unique and rich source of information about the Agency’s strengths and weaknesses throughout its more than 60 year history.

The U.S. Intelligence Community after 9/11

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. Intelligence Community has been the focus of extraordinary public and policy attention, and the subject of significant changes aimed at enhancing the government’s ability to protect national security. Some of these changes would have occurred as the result of a natural evolutionary process – that is, due to new ideas and technological opportunities. But others, such as the creation of the office of the director of national intelligence, are direct consequences of 9/11 and the questions that arose surrounding the community’s performance prior to the attacks. The U.S. Intelligence Community after 9/11 will include all relevant documentation concerning the organizational changes made since 9/11, as well as information about intelligence activities that have occurred since the attacks — including material on collection, counterintelligence, and analysis. A particular feature of the set is its inclusion of the results of all official Congressional and executive branch inquiries into, and assessments of, Intelligence Community performance regarding 9/11, the war in Iraq, and
other similar issues of major public concern.

Exhibition: Global Lincoln 1 July – 25 September 2009

To accompany the Global Lincoln conference at the Rothermere American Institute, an exhibition at the Vere Harmsworth Library will display rare publications illustrating how Lincoln was perceived abroad and influenced views of individuals as well as nations. Drawing on the rich historical collections of the Bodleian Library and Vere Harmsworth Library, the selection of materials will include examples from Britain, Ireland, Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Japan and more.