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The transformation of the Foreign Office 1900-1907

Corp, E. T (1976) The transformation of the Foreign Office 1900-1907. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86055) (KAR id:86055)


The Foreign Office underwent an important transformation at the beginning of the twentieth century. This development coincided with the new course of British foreign policy which has been called "the end of isolation." One reason for this transformation was the rapid promotion of new men with new ideas to fill the senior posts both in the Foreign Office and the Diplomatic Service. Two men in particular, Sir Francis Bertie and Sir Charles Hardinge, benefited from Royal influence to become, respectively, Ambassador at Paris and Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office. These two men, and a number of their contemporaries, began to wield more influence than their predecessors, and attempted with some success to bring about the promotion of men of whom they approved in preference to those of whom they did not approve. Their activities introduced a new body of men at the top of the Foreign Office and brought about an atmosphere of intrigue and rivalry which had not previously been present. Another reason for this transformation was the reform and consequent reorganisation of the Foreign Office. This development brought about a devolution of responsibility and encouraged the permanent officials to begin to put forward their own views and to influence the execution of British foreign policy. The men who were being promoted to the important senior posts were, therefore, provided with an administrative machinery which facilitated their desire for a more active role in the formulation of policy. -2- The other reason for the transformation was the rise of "anti-German" feeling in the Foreign Office, which came to a head at exactly the same time. Towards the close of the nineteenth century the important members of the Office began first to criticise the methods of German diplomacy, and then to see the aims of German foreign policy as inimical to British interests. This mounting criticism was dramatically affected by the collapse of Russia and the aggressive policy pursued by Germany shortly after. Some of the more influential members of the Foreign Office began to suspect that Germany was attempting to impose a hegemony over Europe. They were divided about the importance which they felt should be attached to the potential threat from Russia, but so long as that Power remained weak they began to regard Anglo-German relations as the most important factor to be taken into account when considering British foreign policy. The men at the forefront of this opinion were by and large the same men who were able to take advantage of the new organisation of the Foreign Office to exploit their new positions to the full. When a general consensus was finally reached that Germany was moving towards a bid for hegemony the transformation of the Foreign Office was complete. The Foreign Secretary was surrounded by a body of forceful senior officials, who took advantage of the new and efficient organisation to advance the same overall policy. The Foreign Secretary did not always follow the advice that he was given, but after this time that advice was something which he had to take into consideration. The transformation of the Foreign Office was the watershed between the nineteenth century office and the twentieth century bureaucracy

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86055
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Uncontrolled keywords: History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:26 UTC
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2022 16:14 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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