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Overview

The Political Correspondence Files are the central archive of documentation created by the British Foreign Office (BFO), Great Britain's equivalent of the U.S. State Department. Together with the Confidential U.S. State Department Central Files, they offer researchers an unsurpassed look at world affairs in the early to mid-20th century. As the information hub of British foreign policy, the BFO was both the collection and the dissemination point for information generated by London and the diplomatic posts, as well as by other government ministries. The Political Correspondence Files were the repository for these documents. Letters and telegrams traveled between the BFO and the diplomatic posts, along with instructions from London and dispatches from the posts. The BFO originated many documents, such as minutes of meetings, reports, and correspondence with other government ministries and foreign government embassies in London. The BFO also received documents such as minutes of meetings, reports, telegrams, and correspondence from the War Office, the Admiralty, the India Office, and the Colonial Office. The Political Correspondence Files also contain cabinet papers and parliamentary debates dealing with foreign policy. Among English-language sources, only the BFO's Political Correspondence Files allows researchers to develop informed judgements on the leading personalities and events of these critical years on the eve of the 1911 revolution. In unique detail, it provides a clear picture of the major themes of the period: the growing weakness of the Manchu government and the growing strength of the anti-Manchu elements.

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