Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Official Secrets and Official History
We pulled three copies of this out of one box. You may notice that it has two "confidential" stamps on it. It was published in 1926 but the Foreign Office, India Office, and Government of India objected to it because it contained details of secret wartime negotiations with Persian authorities, particularly over oil. Efforts were made to expunge the objectionable material but the author, Brigadier-General Frederick Moberly, stood his ground. In the end 500 copies were printed with 350 kept in Britain and stamped "confidential" and 150 going to India and stamped "Secret". Nothing is known about the copies sent to India, and only a few of the original "confidential" British copies still exist.
We know all of this because someone pasted a copy of a Guardian newspaper clip detailing all of this when the volume was declassified, the article is dated 27 October 1987.
It says that the U.K. Government issued a reprint when it was declassified, but these copies are labeled "confidential" which means they were part of the original print! One of the copies has this sticker on the front with detailed instructions about returning it because it was confidential:
If that newspaper article wouldn't have been pasted in we never would have known, so thank you to whoever thought to put it in there! An interesting example of the perils of official history.
I'm off the project as I'm heading off to the National Archives in Ottawa for the summer to do research about Dollar-a-Year Men in WWII Canada, but I've drafted a number of posts and will throw them up over the next couple of weeks. All the best Project Chicksands!