How to look for records of... Foreign countries
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
This is a brief guide to researching records of foreign countries. Our records cover many different aspects of British government relations with foreign countries, from correspondence between diplomats to protocols of treaties. This guide will help you to identify some key sources of information which will help you with your research.
1. What do I need to know before I start?
2. What records can I see online?
3. What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?
4. What records can I find in other archives and organisations?
5. What other resources will help me find information?
6. Did you know?
The National Archives holds records of England, Wales and the United Kingdom’s overseas relations dating back to the late 12th century.
The Foreign Office was formed in 1782 and merged into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1968.
Records of the Foreign Office’s Political Departments (FO 371) contain over 190,000 volumes which consist of over 16.5 million pages. They contain references to many well known figures from Laurence of Arabia to King Zog of Albania.
Most Foreign Office records fall into seven major categories
- General Correspondence
- Registers and Indexes
- Embassy and Consular Archives
- Confidential Print
- Private and Private Office Papers
- Archives of Commissions and Conferences
Letters were sometimes printed for circulation to government officials. This is called Confidential Print (but is no longer confidential). It can provide a valuable short-cut to finding the main correspondence on an issue.
Maps and plans acquired by the Foreign Office often accompanied reports and dispatches. Many others were acquired from map sellers in order to assist comprehension of diplomatic and territorial relations abroad.