International Relations in the Institute of Historical Research Library

International Relations in the Institute of Historical Research predominantly focuses on sources relating to the major European powers and the United States over the last two hundred years, although the library does endeavour to collect, when published, sources from earlier periods. The material held by the library is of considerable breadth, and alongside the extensive runs of official diplomatic papers relating to Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the United States amongst others, there are journals, autobiographies and edited correspondence.

The collection (under classmark IR) has been broken up thematically and then divided either chronologically or geographically, depending on the nature of the sources. There are also accompanying materials including bibliographies and library catalogues to compliment the rest of the collection. Following this there is a classmark dedicated to international treaties followed by the main sections on diplomatic history. These have been divided into four chronological groups: pre-1870, 1870-1919, 1919-1945 and post-1945. Within these time frames are collections of diplomatic papers, autobiographies, memoirs, speeches, alongside complimentary secondary sources.

Related collections within the IHR

While International Relations as a topic is in itself very broad, there are many aspects of other collections within the IHR that would be of use to any student working on diplomatic history. The following may be of particular interest and hold a great deal of related material:

  • The American collections (UF and US) contain many autobiographies and documentation that could be used alongside much of the material in the IR collection.
  • Much of the material in the military history collection (W) documents details of war policies as well as peace negotiations.

Primary source material

Copies of diplomatic documents and foreign office lists

Autobiographies and speeches

Diaries, journals and memoirs

Edited correspondence

The library also holds an almost complete run of the British Foreign Office Peace Handbooks

Secondary source material

Although much of the collection is comprised of primary sources there are several runs of journals to accompany primary source documents. There have also been several donations made to the IHR Library that have included secondary source documentation which has now been dispersed between the appropriate collections. Listed below are some of the kinds of secondary sources held by the library along with examples:

Periodicals (past and current)

Current copies of our journals are on open access in the library, and back issues can be ordered from the stack. Many are also available online within the building via the links on the catalogue entry. BBIH and JSTOR are examples of the online databases that can be used to locate journal articles.


For history theses across other universities, see History Online. See further information on theses holdings at the IHR library. These are a few examples covering this subject:

Bibliographies and catalogues – IR.0

Electronic Resources

A full list of our electronic resources is available at Below are a few examples of resources that could be useful for this subject (most are available onsite in the IHR or via subscription only):

Special interest highlights

The IHR holds a number of smaller collections within International Relations that are particularly interesting and provide material on very specific subject areas. Such topics include the war guilt controversy of World War I, the Nuremberg trials of 1945-6, and a section on international law and practice.

Other relevant libraries/institutions

Upon the closure of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Library, the collections held there were dispersed between some of the main educational institutions in London, King’s College London being a major recipient of the donations. 

  • LSE library holds a substantial collection of books on international relations, many of them dealing with recent areas of conflict, or ongoing diplomatic affairs. The vast majority of these books are secondary source material.
  • King’s College London – 50,000 historical items of the Colonial Office, Foreign Office and Commonwealth Relations Office were given to KCL in 2008 from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office library.
  • Chatham House Library deals exclusively with International Affairs, with a particular focus on journals, approximately 1500 of which are supported by an electronic resource. 
  • Then there is always of course the British Library, which has a vast International Relations collection, and the National Archives which holds foreign and commonwealth correspondence and records within the foreign affairs collection. 

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International Relations in the Institute of Historical Research Library | Institute of Historical Research


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