Foreign Office Confidential Prints

 Search the online catalogue. From the 1820s papers of significance began to be distributed to officials in the Foreign Office, Cabinet and other departments as Confidential Print. The practice grew until the 1850s when nearly every important dispatch or telegram was routinely printed. The Confidential Prints vary in format from a single page to a substantial volume, many have maps (we have over 700) and diagrams. The documents are numbered 1-10,600 (1827-1914) in roughly order of printing.

For the historian this is an incredible set of primary source documents. They are a window to Britain’s colonial past covering subjects such as slavery, railways, expeditions, diplomatic relations and war, from Abyssinia to Zanzibar.

The index, ‘List of Confidential Papers Relating to Foreign Affairs’  has been transcribed into a database. The index was arranged alphabetically by country, and the documents listed roughly in date order.

You can:

  • search for documents with maps by entering map in the subject box
  • search by jurisdiction, date and document number
  • do a keyword search in the subject box
  • email results in a spreadsheet format.

We do not have a complete set of documents at Oxford, so the search will return

  • whether we have the document or not
  • how many pages it has
  • whether it has any illustrations or maps.

The collection is kept in the Official Papers reading room and is on open shelf. A shelf slip must be filled out when a document is removed and put in place. Photocopying the documents is not permitted, however they can be scanned by the imaging service, personal scanners are not permitted.


King John IV of Abyssinia, 28 Oct. 1879. (Doc no. 4249)
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