Click here to skip to content

China: Political records in the India Office Records

During the 19th century, Britain launched a number of campaigns against China, namely, the First China War (aka: the Opium War) of 1840-42, the Second China War of 1857-60, the third British military expedition in 1900. Most of the records relating to the three China Wars can be found in the Foreign Office records in the National Archives. There are however many secret and confidential prints that accumulated in the libraries of the Military Department and the Political and Secret Department at the India Office in London, as a result of the East India Company's and later the Government of India's direct involvement in supplying manpower for the wars.

In 1858, the East India Company was superseded by the India Office of the British Government, whose major concern at the time was the security of India. The frontier regions of China bordering on British India were considered of strategic importance. A large amount of material coming from Xinjiang (Chinese Turkestan), Tibet and Yunnan was collected by the Political and Secret Department of the India Office, Military Department and the Burma Office.

  • L/PS/7 Political & Secret letters and enclosures received from the Government of India, Foreign Department 1875-1911 (253 vol.)
  • L/PS/10 Political & Secret subject files 1902-31 (125 files relate to China)
  • L/PS/11 Political & Secret annual files 1912-30 (800 files relate to China)
  • L/PS/12 Political & External files and collections 1931-50 (464 files relate to china)
  • L/PS/18 Political & Secret memoranda c.1840-1947 (87 files relate to China)
  • M/3-4 Burma Office annual files 1937-48 (126 files relate to Yunnan province of China)
  • L/MIL/17 Military Department Library. Includes reference material such as military reports, route surveys, gazetteers, etc. Contains official accounts of the military operations in China in 1900 (the suppression of the Boxers Rebellion) and related correspondence and reports.
  • L/PS/20 Political and Secret Department Library, ca.1800-1947. The library of Political and Secret Department, similar to that of the Military Department (L/MIL/17), built up a large and varied collection of confidential prints, official publications and commercially published works.

Finding aid published by IDC:

British Intelligence Files on Asia and Middle East, c.1880-1950