Arranged under the following subject headings, which are related to the diverse nature and origins of the material in the series:
Registers of correspondence: 1782-1818. These are in three main groups:
- (i) Registers of foreign correspondence, 1782-1789. This is arranged in chronological order and until 25 Aug. 1789, when it comes to an abrupt halt, it is virtually unbroken, although there are periods when the subject of despatches is not entered. In the interval between this and the next group registration appears to have continued and a single Northern Department Register for 1798 has survived.
- (ii) Registers of foreign correspondence, 1805-1810. This group starts with separate departmental registers for the Northern (1805-1806) and Southern (1806) Departments, continues with separate country registers from 1806 to 1809 and changes to a general register for 1809-1810. Unlike the first group this one was kept up only intermittently; there are gaps in all the registers and most of the country ones fade out in 1807.
- (iii) Departmental diaries from 1809 to 1816 (Southern) and 1817 (Northern). These relate to both foreign and domestic correspondence.
Supplementary correspondence: 1763-1857; 1887-1918; 1931-1938. This consists mainly of unbound papers for the period 1763-1857. These are of a miscellaneous nature and include original correspondence, drafts, duplicates, minutes, memoranda, intelligence reports and intercepted correspondence. Many, although relating to overseas affairs, appear to have originated not in the Foreign Office but in the offices of the other Secretaries of State. They have probably been placed in this series in the course of sorting in the State Paper Office or the Public Record Office. This Supplementary Correspondence is here listed in some detail under countries, with separate sections for Domestic and General and "Treaty Papers", as follows:
- America, United States of
- Barbary States
- Continent: Conferences
- Corsica and Toulon
- German States
- Holland and Netherlands
- Portugal and Brazil
- Sicily and Naples
- Slave Trade
- Spain and Spanish America
- De Stamford Papers
- Domestic and General
- "Treaty Papers"
Entry books, secretaries of states: 1789-1823. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries entry books of official despatches received and sent were made up for the private use of the Secretaries of State (from 1795 by the Précis Writer), who normally took them away on leaving office. This group includes entry books of this nature which for one reason or another remained in the Foreign Office. Each Secretary of State from Leeds to Canning's second Secretaryship is represented, but in most cases by only a few isolated volumes.
There are, however, fairly complete sets for the Secretaryships of Hawkesbury (1801-1804), Mulgrave (1805-1806), Fox and Howick (1806-1807) and Castlereagh (1812-1822). Entries except those for Bathurst's brief Secretaryship in 1809) are in country volumes, usually with separate volumes for précis of despatches (received) and copies of drafts (sent).
Castlereagh's entry books are supplemented by a number of bound volumes of duplicate despatches ("Précis Appendix Volumes") and are parallelled by entry books arranged on a different basis and possibly of official origin: (i) a series of Southern Department country volumes of précis of despatches arranged by subjects; and (ii) entry books of foreign and domestic drafts entered chronologically in separate series for the Southern and (from 1815) Northern Departments.
Entry books, official: 1761-1836. With the possible exception of the entry books from Castlereagh's Secretaryship just mentioned the Foreign Office does not appear to have maintained a regular series of official entry books of foreign correspondence. This group contains an entry book for Holland for 1771; a few miscellaneous foreign entry books, 1782-1833; and entry books for Morocco, 1825-1836, inherited from the Colonial Office, where they had formed part of a series of entry books for the Barbary States now divided between a number of series
On the other hand the entry books of domestic drafts kept in the offices of the Secretaries of State before 1782 were continued in the Foreign Office. Those to 1822 (including entry books of letters to the Admiralty going back to as early as 1761) are in this group.
Establishment papers: 1772-1857. These relate to Foreign Service Messengers, Consular establishments and Slave Trade Department expenses, with one box of correspondence and papers listed in detail under supplementary correspondence: domestic and general.
Treaty and Royal Letter Department: 1639-1942.
- (i) Some "Treaty Papers" for the period 1782-1837
- (ii) Original and draft Royal Letters, 1781-1930. These are arranged by countries and include all types of Royal Letter to 1834. From 1834 those in this group are confined to births, marriages, deaths, etc.
- (iii) A few original Commissions. Full Powers and Letters Patent of Appointment of Secretaries of State, 1791-1837.
- (iv) Entry books, 1639-1942. These include: two consecutive series of entry books of Treaties, etc., 1639-1834, and a series of entry books of Treaties with the Barbary States, 1675-1824, inherited from the Colonial Office
Library. This group contains a few papers for the period 1793-1803 relating to Foreign Office records in the State Paper Office, an index to "Public Documents" (a collection of newspaper extracts) in the Library, 1810-1815, and a number of bound drafts and copies of and notes for memoranda.
Archives: 1789-1840. These include a few miscellaneous archives of Missions, Commissions and Special Missions, the last consisting mainly of accounts.
Extraneous and miscellaneous: 1672-1720; 1789-1829. These include the correspondence and papers of Jean Antoine de Mesmes, Comte d'Avaux, a French diplomat, 1672-1702; a MS copy of Mémoires Historiques of the Marquis de Dangeau, 1684-1720; papers of Philip d'Auvergne, Prince de Bouillon, 1793-1815, and of Charles Alexandre de Calonne, 1787-1792, French emigrés.