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.

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