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Secondly, the collections known as 'Hertslet's Treaties, about thirty carefully edited volumes, with maps added. Thirdly, there are the Blue Books and other papers about foreign affairs laid before Parliament. Their value is universally admitted, and they are as indispensable to the historian as they are to the politician. But, while they provide historical materials of great value, they suffer, as such, from one great drawback. They contain as a rule a select body of documents relating to a particular question or incident and a limited period of time. But there are a great many gaps in the information they supply. An historian wants to know what the relations between Great Britain and a particular Power were during the interval, say, between the Blue Book on the incident of 1850 and the Blue Book on the incident of 1880, and something more about our relations to other Powers at the time when those incidents occurred. Besides this, a Blue Book often omits documents because it is undesirable to publish them at the particular moment, though in a few years the reason no longer holds good. And, since the Blue Books are disconnected and incomplete, an historian who undertakes to write the history either of our relations to a particular Power, or of any period of our foreign policy, is obliged to have recourse to the original records themselves, if he wishes to make his narrative full and accurate. An instance will show this. Spencer Walpole, in his • History of England from 1815 to 1880,' devotes a large amount of space to our relations with foreign Powers, employing the Blue Books for that purpose in a careful and systematic way. Compare his account of the relations of England and France from 1830 to 1848 with Major John Hall's England and the Orleans Monarchy,' which is based not on the Blue Books but on the original correspondence now in the Record Office. It is clear at once that the printed documents were utterly inadequate for an historian's purpose, and that it was indispensable to have access to the originals.
Why is it that we had to wait till 1912 for an accurate account of England's relations with France during the reign of Louis Philippe ? Because the regulations of the Foreign Office prevented access to the necessary materials. Until 1892 no Foreign Office papers later
than 1802 could be seen by historians even with a permit. From 1892 to 1903 it was possible to see without a permit papers written before 1802, and with a permit papers written before 1830. In 1903 there was change; in one respect it was a retrograde step, for the limit for papers accessible without a permit was moved back from 1802 to 1780, though for those accessible with a permit it was moved forward from 1830 to 1850. An Inter-departmental Committee, which sat in 1908, took more liberal views, and recommended that papers written before 1837 should be accessible without a permit; and this recommendation was adopted, and is now in force. With a permit, Foreign Office records down to 1860 can now be seen.
In this way, then, the study of British foreign policy during the 19th century was discouraged and obstructed. It is only since 1892, that is for the last twenty-four years, that our historians have been allowed to see the author. ities on which the study of that subject should be based; and it was not till about ten years ago that they were allowed to go beyond 1830. The present system, though more liberal, is not liberal enough. In the first place there is no reason why free access should not be given to documents written later than 1837-a date which indicates, not a landmark in European history, but merely an event of domestic interest. Secondly, the system of permits, as it is worked, is unsatisfactory. •We think, speaking generally,' said the Committee of 1908, 'that permits should be granted to all prima facie competent and responsible persons engaged in historical or biographical research, and that they should not be confined to writers of established reputation or to individuals personally known to Ministers.'* The last words indicate the system which had hitherto prevailed. No doubt the recommendation of the Committee has had some effect, but still the question of the fitness of the applicant for the privilege he seeks is settled entirely by the officials of the Department. In France there is a system which is much more satisfactory to historians. There, an application is judged by the Comité des Archives Diplomatiques, a body consisting partly of
* “First Report of the Public Records Commission,' vol. 1, pt ii, 63, 1912.
historians, partly of officials, so that the candidate can be sure that his qualifications are judged by persons conversant with his studies. Thirdly, it is unreasonable to fix the year 1860 as the extreme limit for investigations conducted under a permit. It is an arbitrary date, which does not mark any natural division in European history. The natural stopping-place would be the close of the Franco-German War in 1871, which does mark the beginning of a new period. No political interest is served by preventing Englishmen from writing the history of our foreign relations during the period from 1860 to 1871.
The French Government gives permits more freely and is less secretive. It has recently published, under the title of 'Les Origines diplomatiques de la Guerre de 1870-1,' the correspondence of its ambassadors from December 1863 to the summer of 1866—a correspondence which contains many interesting sidelights about our own policy. It has allowed M. Emile Bourgeois to see all the documents in the French archives about the negotiations for an alliance between Italy, Austria and France in 1869 and 1870, and to publish the results in his * Rome et Napoleon III.' It has granted similar privileges for a still more recent period. M. Débidour was allowed freely to use the correspondence of the French Government with its agents at Rome between 1870 and 1882 in his L'Eglise Catholique et l'Etat sous la troisième République.' This liberality is a result of the establishment of the Third Republic. Till about forty years ago the archives in the French Foreign Office were practically inaccessible. In 1874, however, the Government appointed a Commission des Archives Diplomatiques, comprised partly of historians, partly of officials and diplomatists, whose object was to make the papers as freely accessible as prudence permitted. The Commission,' said the Minister for Foreign Affairs in 1880, ‘has always been guided by the principle that, in a democratic government like ours, the study of the political traditions of France in her relations with other countries can no longer be restricted to a small and privileged class, but that it is desirable to facilitate the work of all who were interested in the dignity and greatness of their country.' The Commission itself declared that, at a time when
France found herself able to take the management of her policy into her own hands, it was proper to acquaint her with the history and traditions of that policy and the reasons on which they were based.*
This aim directed not only the regulations drawn up for the use of the archives,t but also the character of the publications issued by the Commission. First of all it took in hand the preparation of a catalogue of the Foreign Office papers--a long task, now nearly com. pleted, which has resulted in the production of an • Inventaire Sommaire,' a catalogue which, unlike the Lists of State Papers (Foreign) published by our Record Office, gives an exact account of the contents of the volumes it enumerates. At the same time it began the issue of the Collection of Instructions given by the Kings of France to their ambassadors from 1648 to 1789, which now forms a series of about twenty admirably edited volumes of the greatest historical interest and value. These documents were selected not only because they were useful to historians and diplomatists, but because, taken together, they embodied all the traditions of French foreign policy, and thus constituted, as the Commission said, “a practical work for the diplomatic education of our democracy. By it,' they said, 'one can learn what the ideas were which directed the action of France in the world, and what the permanent and essential interests were which France sought to defend.'s
* M. Duclerc to the President of the Republic, Dec. 23, 1882. “Vous remarquerez avec moi, M. le Président, l'activité et la perseverance de la Commission dans l'accomplissement de l'oeuvre en vue de laquelle elle avait été formée, c'est-à-dire la communication à la fois prudente et libérale des documents historiques conservés au Dépôt des Affaires Étrangères.' - Rapport,' 1880-2, pp. 7-11.
† The changes in the French regulations as to date may be summarised thus. The Decree of 1874 opened the F. O. papers up to 1713; that of 1879, up to 1792 ; that of 1880, up to 1814 ; that of 1891, up to 1830.
See · Rapport sur les Travaux de la Commission des Archives Diplomatiques ' for 1880-2, p. 15.
§ See ‘Rapport,' 1880–2, p. 18; 1905–7, p. 11. The Committee term the collection when completed, “A la fois un monument incomparable des traditions de la politique exterieure de la France et une pratique pour l'education diplomatique de notre démocratie.' They then proceed, with the same object, to recommend a second series of publications : Pour que ce dernier but fût atteint, il ne suffirait pas du Recueil des instructions. Par celui-ci, on peut connaître les idées directrices de l'action de la France dans le monde, les intérêts permanents et essentiels qu'elle s'est efforcée
A little later, the Commission undertook the publication of a series of volumes (termed an Inventaire Analytique de la Correspondance Politique ') analogous to our Calendars of Foreign State Papers, not exclusively confined to the papers of the 16th century, but including also papers of the period of the French Revolution.* Finally, in 1890, it organised and opened to the public, on the same conditions as the archives themselves, a special library of works relating to diplomacy and foreign policy, which now contains more than 80,000 volumes.
All these activities were inspired by one aim-to make the past foreign policy of France better known to the present generation of Frenchmen by assisting historians to study it. The long list of books based on investigations in the archives of the Foreign Office, which is published periodically at the end of the Commission's reports, shows how successfully this aim was achieved. The historians of France have played their part in informing the French democracy, and in creating agreement on the subject of the national policy.
But the indifference of the Department principally concerned is not the only obstacle to the study of the foreign relations of Great Britain; the system of education prevalent in our schools and colleges is another cause of its neglect. In English schools the study of history generally means the national history with some Greek and Roman history added ; and, while the national history is often very inefficiently taught, European history is, as a rule, entirely omitted. Further, our history since 1815, which is the most essential period for the training of the citizen, has less attention devoted to it than earlier periods; and the history of Europe during
de défendre. Il ne serait pas moins nécessaire que l'on pût se rendre compte de quelle manière ces idées se sont manifestées et ces intérêts ont été sauvegardées.' Hence the necessity for this new series of publications, in which ‘il faudrait que toutes les formes de l'activité diplomatique pussent trouver place : recueils de dépêches embrassant une mission et une négociation complète; actes des congrès qui ont abouti à des traités généraux réglant pour un temps le statut international des contractants ; rélations des ambassadeurs ou envoyés, quand elles existent.'
* See ‘Rapport,' 1884, p. 10. Besides the correspondence of Castillon and Marillac (1537-42), the series includes that of Barthélemy (1792-5). + See Rapport,' 1889-90, pp. 9, 21; 1894-1904, p. 13.
See Rapport, 1903-7, pp. 17-24.