Foreign Office

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The Foreign Office was created as a separate department in 1782. It was headed by the secretary of state for foreign affairs, usually second in authority only to the prime minister himself. He was assisted by two under‐secretaries. The permanent under‐secretary was a civil servant. In 1841 the rest of the establishment consisted of a chief clerk, six senior clerks, ten clerks, seven junior clerks, eight other clerks attached to particular duties, a librarian, a sublibrarian, a translator, a private secretary, a précis‐writer, and a printer. Originally, the staff was recruited entirely by patronage and even qualifying examinations were not introduced until 1856. Limited competition for entry was introduced in 1908. As the Office grew more professional, its influence on policy‐making increased. Lord Palmerston had regarded his subordinates as mere clerks. Even at the end of the century, Lord Salisbury expected little in the way of ‘advice’ from the Office.

Subjects: British History.

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