The British government files in Secret Files from World Wars to Cold War were sourced exclusively from The National Archives, U.K. The selection of material and the thematic scope and date parameters of the resource were determined in consultation with the Editorial Board, whose members specialize in twentieth-century intelligence, foreign policy, and international relations.
The files selected for inclusion document the intersection of secret intelligence with foreign policy, military strategy, and international relations during the first half of the twentieth century.
This is exemplified by series FO 1093, the files of the Foreign Office’s Permanent Under-Secretary’s Department. The files in FO 1093 date from 1873 to 1951, though only a small number originated prior to the First World War. Due to the importance of FO 1093 in documenting the development of the liaison between British intelligence and foreign policy, the entire series, as it existed at the time of production, is included in Secret Files from World Wars to Cold War. The majority of files in FO 1093 date from the Second World War and the years immediately following it.
All files selected from the eight other series represented in Secret Files from World Wars to Cold War date from the period 1936–1953.
The Second World War is central to this resource. However, the inclusion of intelligence and policy files from the surrounding years also allows the context of the international situation that led to war and the global legacy of Cold War that followed the Second World War to be studied. The post-war files conclude at the end of 1953. This year was chosen as an appropriate end point for Secret Files from World Wars to Cold War as in 1953, with the armistice in the Korean War and the death of Joseph Stalin, the first phase of the Cold War effectively came to a close.
This selection strategy also allows for the study of the evolution of secret intelligence organization and strategy, as well as its influence on foreign policy, from the earliest days of MI5 and MI6 to the new challenges of a Cold War world.
Selections by Series
The resource includes the following file series in their entirety:
- FO 1093: Foreign Office: Permanent Under-Secretary's Department: Registered and Unregistered Papers, 1873-1951
- HW 1: Government Code and Cypher School: Signals Intelligence Passed to the Prime Minister, Messages and Correspondence, 1940-1945
- CAB 301: Cabinet Office: Cabinet Secretary's Miscellaneous Papers, 1936-1952
- CAB 56: Committee of Imperial Defence: Joint Intelligence Sub-Committee: Minutes and Memoranda, 1936-1939, 1974
Please note that at the time of digitization, series CAB 301 and FO 1093 contained the following file-runs:
- CAB 301: 1–110
- FO 1093: 1–588
Any files now available at The National Archives with references higher than CAB 301/110 and FO 1093/588 were accessioned after production completed, and are therefore not available in this resource.
The resource includes selections of material from the following file series:
- CAB 163: War Cabinet, Ministry of Defence, and Cabinet Office: Central Intelligence Machinery: Joint Intelligence Sub-Committee, later Committee: Secretariat: Files, 1939-1986
- CAB 176: War Cabinet, Ministry of Defence and Cabinet Office: Joint Intelligence Sub-Committee, later Committee: Secretariat: Minutes (JIC(SEC)), 1942-1957
- CAB 158: Ministry of Defence and Cabinet Office: Central Intelligence Machinery: Joint Intelligence Sub-Committee later Committee: Memoranda (JIC Series), 1946-1968
- CAB 159: Ministry of Defence and Cabinet Office: Central Intelligence Machinery: Joint Intelligence Sub-Committee later Committee: Minutes (JIC Series), 1947-1968
From each of these four series, all available files dated up to and including 1953 are included in the resource.
The resource also includes selections of material from the following series:
- CAB 81: War Cabinet and Cabinet: Committees and Sub-committees of the Chiefs of Staff Committee: Minutes and Papers, 1939-1947
Series CAB 81 includes the records of a number of wartime committees subordinated to the Chiefs of Staff Committee, including, for example, the Port Defence Committee, and the Principal Administrative Officers Committee. Only the minutes and papers of the Joint Intelligence Sub-Committee (JIC) are included from this series.
The JIC papers in CAB 81 cover the years 1939–1947. By digitizing these files alongside the pre-war JIC papers in CAB 56, further wartime JIC papers in CAB 176, and the post-war JIC minutes and papers in CAB 158 and CAB 159, Secret Files from World Wars to Cold War provides access to a complete run of JIC meeting minutes and papers from the very first meeting of the JIC in 1936 to the end of the Korean War, thereby providing a continuous narrative of intelligence, foreign policy, international history, and military history throughout this period.