This collection of documents is intended alike for the advanced research student, the undergraduate new to his discipline, and the general reader. It makes accessible for the first time large numbers of documents that cast significant light upon major diplomatic and imperial themes of modern British history. Some documents are of unique individual importance, recording the antecedents or catalysts of seminal events. Other documents merely illustrate the shiftings and turnings of deeper forces. All of these primary source materials are intended to inform, to illuminate, to entertain, and, most important, to deepen the reader's understanding of a central development in world history-- the rise and subsequent decline of Great Britain as a great imperial power.
I have chosen to classify the documents by subject--Foreign Policy, Ireland, Empire--while pursuing chronological and substantive themes within each unit. Foreign policy is covered in the first two volumes in order to provide a broad perspective from which to view imperial history. Ireland, though demonstrably integral to imperial history, is treated separately and at considerable length in deference to its unique importance. Overseas developments, such as the impact of Britain upon India, the evolution of mercantile and classical liberal imperial theories, and the creation of the British Commonwealth of Nations, are documented in the final volumes.
The choice of documents is necessarily arbitrary but my intention has been to be broad and comprehensive so as to illustrate contradictory forces and tensions. Treaties, judicial reports, newspaper accounts, private memoirs, and contemporary tracts and speeches have all been employed to this end. In no instance have I deliberately given preference to an abbreviated or edited version of a document if the fuller version could be realistically offered. To