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British Envoys to Germany and British Envoys to the Kaiserreich

The two editorial series consist of official despatches written for the Foreign Office by British envoys to the German States in the 19th century, covering the period from the Vienna Congress in 1815 to the dissolution of the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund) in 1866 and from the foundation of the German Kaiserreich in 1871 to 1897. All despatches have been transcribed and annotated for the first time. The selection presents the main attitudes to the political, economic, military, cultural, and social situation in the German States described and assessed by British diplomats.

British Envoys to Germany (1816-1866)

In the period following the Congress of Vienna, there was hardly a country that British foreign secretaries and their staff in the Foreign Office in London were better informed about than Germany. A number of factors drew British attention to Germany: the personal union of Britain and Hanover which meant that, until William IV's death in 1837, the British sovereign was automatically member of the circle of German territorial princes; dynastic relations with the German princely houses; Germany's centrality to British security policy and policy for Europe; and Germany's role both as a market and as a country of transit for British goods. Britain's observation of Germany was especially intense because the German Confederation was divided into individual sovereign states, which resulted in a particularly dense network of diplomatic relations. With British diplomatic missions in Vienna, Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, Dresden, Hanover (from 1838), Hamburg, and to the German Confederation in Frankfurt, eight of the twenty-two legations and embassies that Britain maintained around the middle of the nineteenth century were on the territory of the German Confederation. France, Russia, and Sweden, by contrast, had only one British diplomatic mission each. Moreover, British diplomats in Germany were usually accredited at more than one court. The British envoy to Stuttgart, for example, was also responsible for Baden from 1841; based in Frankfurt, British diplomats to the Diet of the German Confederation established relations with Hesse-Kassel, Hesse-Darmstadt, and Hesse-Nassau; and the British envoy to Dresden was also accredited at the princely courts in Altenburg, Coburg, Meiningen, and Weimar. In 1852 the network of British missions extended to twenty-two of the thirty-seven states of the German Confederation. Britain's representatives regularly reported from and about these states.

British Envoys to the Kaiserreich, 1871-1897

British Envoys to the Kaiserreich presents a comprehensive selection of the diplomatic correspondence that was sent from the British missions in Germany to the Foreign Office between 1871 and 1897. Building on the preceding series, British Envoys to Germany, it will provide further resources for the history of Anglo-German relations and British perceptions of Germany within the wider field of European and international affairs. The correspondence is distinctive for the quality of its reportage, the coverage of local, national and international issues and the diverse thematic scope of political, social and cultural affairs; not least also for the envoys’ personal comments and interpretations. It will give historians, university teachers, and students unique access to a historical period associated with the economic and political ascent of Germany, with Bismarck’s Realpolitik and Britain’s (splendid) isolation, as well as with New Imperialism and the increasing interconnectedness between European states, both in politics and on a societal level. British Envoys to the Kaiserreich is of special historiographical value as it concentrates on Anglo-German history before German Weltpolitik – in contrast to the two seminal editorial series of diplomatic documents before 1914, British Documents on the Origins of War, 1898–1914 and British Documents on Foreign Affairs (Part I; F). The dividing point of the proposed volumes, 1883/1884, correlates with changes in diplomatic reportage, both topical and in opinion, after the Berlin West Africa Conference and the succession of Edward Malet to Odo Russell as ambassador to Berlin.