Catalogue description Foreign Office and Diplomatic Service Administration Office: Chief Clerk's Department and successors: Records

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Details of FO 366
Reference: FO 366
Title: Foreign Office and Diplomatic Service Administration Office: Chief Clerk's Department and successors: Records

This series contains correspondence, papers, accounts, etc of the Chief Clerk's Department of the Foreign Office and, from 1965, of the administrative departments of the Diplomatic Service Administration Office. The records concern the accounts and internal affairs of the Foreign Office, the Messengers and the Diplomatic and Consular Services. The records go back beyond 1782 and have been kept as a distinct series from an early date, being retained in the Chief Clerk's department and not transferred annually to the Library as the general correspondence of other Foreign Office departments was.

The most important precedents relating to the Foreign Office establishment and the Messengers were entered in the 'Domestic Entry Books' within this series. These and the other records in the 'Foreign Office' subseries contain much information about the domestic history of the Foreign Office and the careers of its clerks.

The series includes registers of correspondence, which are subdivided from 1870 under the headings Diplomatic Service, Consular Service, Treasury, Audit Office (to 1896), Miscellaneous (other government departments, institutions and individuals and Messengers) and Free Deliveries (1878-1890). Their arrangement corresponds only loosely with the arrangement into volumes of the papers to which they relate, making them an imperfect means of reference. They do not record all the papers which passed through the Department, as many were sent from other departments, where they had already been registered, while drafts prepared in the Department might be written out for despatch and registered elsewhere. In almost any volume of General Correspondence of this period will be found a substantial number of papers stamped 'Seen by the Chief Clerk'.

Date: 1719-1967

Records down to about 1905, together with a few stray or kindred records, have been arranged in an order corresponding with the division of work within the department.

When the Foreign Office registry was established in 1906, the Chief Clerk's correspondence, like that of other departments, passed through the General Registry and was entered in the central register. From there, however, it went direct to the department, by-passing the General Sub-Registries and not being represented in the annual card index of General Correspondence. Only a few registered papers for the period 1909 to 1919, now bound in order of year and registry number, together with some unregistered subject files, have been preserved.

After 1920 the Chief Clerk's papers were registered and filed in much the same way as those of the other departments. Papers did not, however, pass to the Main Index Branch for inclusion in the printed indexes until 1931, and even thereafter only selected papers were indexed. The files for the period after 1920 are listed individually, the title of each file being given; they are arranged in annual sequences divided under various headings, the arrangement within the headings being by file numbers.

From the beginning of 1950 a revised filing system was adopted by the Foreign Office. This system was based on:

  • i) an initial letter (or letters) indicating the department concerned;
  • ii) a file number;
  • iii) a further number indicating the particular paper in the file.
The departmental index letter for Chief Clerk's Department is X

Catalogue entries for the items in this series have been arbitrarily numbered in sequence for system reasons; these numbers do not appear on the documents. Where possible, the file numbers, as these appear on the records, have been added to the item descriptions.

Related material:

For summaries of registered papers of the Department, 1920-1943, see FO 1103

For files of Administrative Divisions after 1922, see Division within FCO

For later Communications Department files, see (1936-1964) FO 850

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Diplomatic Service Administration Office, 1966-1968

Foreign Office, 1782-1968

Physical description: 3663 files and volumes
Access conditions: Subject to 30 year closure unless otherwise stated
Immediate source of acquisition:

from 1968: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

from 1939: Foreign Office

Selection and destruction information: Following a rearrangement of pre-1906 records in this series at the Public Record Office, some records discovered to be of no value or to be copies of printed material available elsewhere, were destroyed under Section 6 of the Public Records Act 1958.
Accruals: Series is accruing

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