The Palmerston Papers Database

About the Palmerston Papers DatabaseProfile of Viscount Palmerston

The papers of Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, form part of University of Southampton Library MS 62, the Broadlands archives. The semi-official correspondence and papers of the third Viscount Palmerston total some 40,000 items, covering the whole of his ministerial career from 1809 until his death as Prime Minister in 1865.

A `Report on the political and semi-official correspondence and papers of Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, 1806-1865' was produced by the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts (HMC) in 1983. This catalogue forms the basis of the summary descriptions of the archive in the first section of the Palmerston Papers Database, although the Database contains supplementary family correspondence, BR22-30, taken from the Broadlands estate and family papers.

The detailed catalogue descriptions concentrates on two series of correspondence, the first of British diplomats stationed overseas, the second of British government ministers. The diplomatic correspondence, which covers from 1830 until 1864, includes material on Belgium, Turkey and Greece, Prussian foreign policy, Sardinia and Austria. The focus of the ministerial correspondence is predominately that of home affairs.

Further information is available on the arrangement of the Database and the sorting codes used in the cataloguing process.

The Palmerston Papers

The semi-official papers are sub-divided as follows:

  • RC Royal correspondence
  • GC General correspondence: the most substantial body of papers and arranged alphabetically by correspondent
  • MPC Miscellaneous and patronage correspondence
  • LB Letter book
  • WO War Office papers
  • BD Foreign Office despatches
  • MM Memoranda relating to foreign affairs
  • SLT Papers on the slave trade
  • FO Foreign Office papers
  • CAB Cabinet Office
  • GMC Papers relating to government and ministerial changes
  • ND Papers on national defence
  • HA Papers relating to home affairs
  • PRE Material relating to the press
  • SP Speeches
  • D Diaries and journals

About three-quarters of this semi-official material consists of Palmerston's papers as Foreign Secretary and is largely composed of his private correspondence with British diplomats. This correspondence is to be found in the General Correspondence (GC) series of papers. Some of the official minutes and working papers in the collection are similar to those surviving in the Foreign Office records (PRO FO 96/17-22, FO 800/382) and the drafts of despatches relate to a series of entry books and precis books in the British Library (Add MSS 48439-577, 49963-9) which were once in the collections at Broadlands. An important sequence of Palmerston's correspondence with Sir George Villiers has been published in the HMC Prime Minister's Papers series, Palmerston I: private correspondence with Sir George Villiers (afterwards fourth Earl of Clarendon) as minister to Spain 1833-1837 ed. R.Bullen and F.Strong (London, 1985).

The papers from Palmerston's long service as Secretary at War (1809-28) are few in comparison and the correspondence generally is meagre prior to 1830. The deficiency is partly made up by the survival of political journals for 1806-1807 and 1828-1829, by other diaries and journals, 1818-1864, and by the autobiographical sketch that he wrote for Lady Cowper shortly before their marriage. For Palmerston's years as Home Secretary and Prime Minister there is royal correspondence, correspondence with cabinet colleagues, material relating to cabinet matters and to domestic and foreign business. The papers are more fragmentary than those for the years as Foreign Secretary, with a notable absence of general correspondence. The most probable reason for this is that Palmerston's death in office involved a hasty sorting of the papers and considerable destruction.

Further information is available on the arrangement of the archive and on papers that have been acquired and embedded in the archive.