The subject of this work was originally suggested to me a short time
before I graduated. At first my intention was to collect material
for a biography of Williams,. but I abandoned this idea almost
immediately, and decided to confine my attention to the diplomatic
side of his activities. This was the only aspect of his career which
really interested me, and there was, as I soon discovered, ample
material for its study in the Public Record Office and the MS. Department of the British Museum, where I worked during the first of my
The material collected there during that first year and many later
visits to London, after the perusal of hundreds of volumes of letters,
despatches, and other private and official papers, forms the basis of
this work. It has, however, been supplemented to a considerable
extent by the results of two visits to the Archives de la Ministére
des Affaires Etrangeres at Paris, and of a visit to the Newport (Mon.)
Public Library, which possesses a MS. collection including, so far as
can be ascertained, practically all Williams's official papers as a British minister, as well as the private diary which he kept at Berlin
and some other private papers. Permission to examine another part of
Williams's papers, which is at present in the possession of Mr T.F.
Fenwick, Thirlestane House, Cheltenham, was refused.
As my knowledge of the authorities and the scope of this study in
European diplomacy gradually widened, Williams inevitably ceased to be
the central figure, and was merged in the European background. I
would gladly dismiss him altogether from my work, but his career
is the only thread on which my account of Britain's diplomatic
relations with certain continental states can be hung. No one can
be more conscious than I of the obvious weakness of the method of
treatment which circumstances have forced me to adopt in PartI.
As Williams moves about from Dresden to Berlin, Warsaw, Grodno, and
Vienna the chapters are necessarily disconnected in their subject
matter. This difficulty is not present to the same extent after
Williams has settled down at Petersburg, and Part II deals with a single theme - the action and reaction between Petersburg and
Europe during the Diplomatic Revolution and the opening of the
Seven Years war.