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Series One: The Schuman Plan and the European Coal & Steel Community, 1950-1957

Part 3: Complete FO 371 files for 1956-1957
(PRO Class FO 371/120815, 121918-121922, 121925-121928, 121932, 121949-121976, 121984-122005, 122014, 122018-122046, 122050-122061, 124380, 124418, 124451, 124519, 124543-124550, 124559, 124561-124573, 124587, 124590, 124733, 128292-128293, 128315-128324, 128327 & 128329-128330)

Proposed by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman and drafted by Jean Monnet, head of the French Planning Commission, the ECSC founded in April 1951, made clear from the outset its federal objectives:

"The pooling of coal and steel production will immediately provide for the establishment of common bases for economic development as a first step in the federation of Europe, and will change the destinies of those regions which have long been devoted to the munitions of war, of which they have been the most constant victims."

These British Foreign Office Files covered in the final part of our microfilm project covering the ECSC, taken from Public Record Office Class FO 371, contain papers covering all the major issues raised by the creation of the ECSC. As well as looking at the ramifications of the pooling of European coal and steel production, these documents investigate the wider issues stemming from this move for both Britain and continental Europe.

The ECSC Treaty was signed in Paris in 1951 by France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. In part, the momentum developed for such an agreement reflected the influence of key people committed to some form of "common future" for Western Europe: Schuman and Monnet in France, Adenauer in West Germany, Alcide de Gsperi and Carlo Sforza in Italy, Paul-Henri Spaak in Belgium, and Joseph Beck in Luxembourg. From 1951 onwards, it set the tone for renewed debate culminating in the establishment of the European Economic Community, a landmark reached in 1957. Britain, however, always preferring an inter-governmental rather than a federal approach, did not sign up, but nonetheless monitored the plan closely. The Foreign Office Files included in this collection contain the information and analysis that resulted from this monitoring.

The original draft of the Schuman Plan was the work of Jean Monnet, who certainly saw it as only the first step in a chain that would ultimately lead to the complete political and economic integration of Europe. Monnet became first president of the High Authority of the ECSC and remained in office until June 1955, during which time he continued to imprint his federalist creed upon the organisation. But what were the original motives of the French and the Germans for signing up to the Community? These papers allow scholars to study the aims and objectives of these two major players, and provide British interpretations of their actions and intentions.

The documents in this collection allow researchers to see the ECSC in operation, to witness the problems, to judge its achievements, and to investigate how it acted as a stimulus for greater European co-operation in the years from 1951-1957. In them can be found much information on the important groundwork which laid the foundations for the creation of the EEC.

There are also the first signs of Britain's continuing ambiguous relationship with Europe and the idea of integration. Although the United Kingdom decided to remain outside of the formal ECSC structure, she found it vital to maintain permanent delegations in Luxembourg accredited to the High Authority.

By 1958 the effects of the ECSC were being felt, much trade discrimination had been eliminated, production and volume of trade had greatly expanded and an impetus for further integration started. On the other hand there were problems; the ECSC constantly had to wrestle with national objections and intransigence; the French in particular continuing various policies and practices which infringed the terms of the treaty. Furthermore, no solution was found to stem coal over-production. Nevertheless, despite these difficulties, the ECSC set the agenda for further European integration, and remains a topic of central importance to any scholar wishing to understand the beginnings of the European Community, and the pressure to create a federal Europe.

Part 3 covers the years 1956-1957 which saw the Community playing a defining role in the development of Europe, and the broadening of its interest into other areas such as nuclear power and relations with other organisations such as the United Nations and GATT.

These typescript, English language primary sources will be easy for students to use for project work, as well as offering significant research potential for senior scholars. A paperback guide covers all three parts.

Digital Guide
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