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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. Between the twin shocks of wartime defeat in 1918 and 1945, the two years covered in Part 3 were probably the most traumatic and demoralizing for the average German citizen in this century. A people proud of its industriousness and thrift was beggared and humiliated by events beyond control. Private bankruptcies were followed by national bankruptcy as inflation made the mark worthless. Reparations to the victorious Allies were punitive and seemed endless. Defaulting on payments led to French occupation of the Rhineland. Only a few lived well, and they were speculators, gangsters, or foreigners. Political life reflected the chaos by strengthening parties that preached a return to authoritarian solutions, either of the left or of the right. How these calamities accrued is vividly detailed in the approximately 120,000 pages of BFO political correspondence covered by Part 3.

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