This series contains correspondence, etc., of the Foreign Office's Political Departments (including the War Department, 1914 to 1920, the Political Intelligence Department, 1918 to 1920, and the Political Intelligence Department, 1939-1946), and of certain of the joint Foreign Office/Commonwealth Relations Office departments established in special circumstances (e.g. the Joint Malaysia/Indonesia Department of 1964 to 1965) or prior to the creation of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1968.
Subjects covered include the UK's political, trade and other relations with:
- All states and territories outside the British colonial empire
- Dominion territories and Commonwealth states
- International defence organisations (the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the Central Treaty Organisation and the South East Asia Treaty Organisation)
- League of Nations
- United Nations Organization and its various subsidiary bodies (the Economic Commissions for Africa and for Asia and the Far East, the International Labour Organisation, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, and the Commission for Technical Co-operation in Africa)
- International economic organisations (the European Economic Community, Euratom, the European Coal and Steel Agreement, the Brussels Treaty Organisation, the Colombo Plan)
- Council of Europe
- Baghdad Pact
- South Pacific Commission
Broad subjects that are covered in some depth include:
- International communications (including radio and television broadcasting, telecommunications, the activities of Cable and Wireless Limited, civil aviation, international rivers and international transportation, posts and telegraphs, shipping and territorial waters)
- Various health and humanitarian issues (drugs and drug trafficking, especially the opium trade)
- Aid and development
- International health programmes
- Refugees and relief organisations
- Events related to the two world wars, and post-second world war disarmament efforts (arms trafficking, the blockade of occupied Europe, war crimes, post-war planning and reconstruction and nuclear test-ban treaties)
- Energy and nuclear energy matters
In any one year records relating to the colonial possessions of foreign powers will be found either under the name of the colony or under the name of the colonial power, depending on the administrative arrangement of the Foreign Office departments involved in that year.
For each Foreign Office territorial political department, the general correspondence in each year includes correspondence relating to British colonial or Commonwealth territories in that geographical area (e.g. the American Department, General papers include correspondence relating to British Guyana, Jamaica etc.) which will supplement the correspondence held in the relevant Colonial Office/Commonwealth Relations Office/Commonwealth Office series by giving Foreign Office views that were not communicated to the other Office at the time.