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Overview

This UPA series, covering the years 1910-1939, reveals the multifaceted struggle between the Foreign Office and the two departments of the Home Civil Service most concerned with matters of finance, trade, and economics. Senior officials in the Foreign Office believed their department should have primacy over anything that involved foreign relations, as economic affairs surely did. The Treasury and Board of Trade believed they, because of their superior economic knowledge, should have primary if not sole responsibility for economic affairs. Controversies centered on departmental responsibility for policy making and negotiating with foreign governments and agencies. After the parties rejected various proposals, including bringing the Foreign Office and Diplomatic Service into the Home Civil Service, they compromised in 1917 and established a Department of Overseas Trade that was responsible jointly to the Board of Trade and the Foreign Office. The documents detail debates inside the Foreign Office on the need for economic intelligence and for a separate economic section within the office. They also record contributions of individuals, such as Sir Warren Fisher, permanent undersecretary to the Treasury, 1919-1938, and Sir Victor Wellesley, who was in charge of consular and commercial activities in the Foreign Office. The files reveal the background of economic knowledge and interpretations shared by senior officials who determined Great Britain's policies toward potentially aggressive states during the 1930s-e.g., the files show diplomats' perception that power in France and Germany was increasingly concentrated and exercised behind the scenes by industrial magnates. Ever-present was concern about war.

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