The Churchill Archives Centre hosts the British Diplomatic Oral History Programme (BDOHP). Established in 1995 by Malcolm McBain, a retired Diplomatic Service Officer with the approval of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The BDOHP interviews former diplomats or other officials who have played a significant role in events bearing on international relations.
This really is a fantastic resource. Researchers can scan through an alphabetical list of contributors (scroll down the page or click on the Janus web server link), attached to each is a very useful resume of the diplomat’s career, see image below. You can then view the transcript by clicking on the diplomats name, for example, ‘BYATT, Ronald Archer Campbell (b.1930)‘. Once in the transcript you are presented with a contents page which very clearly lists the posts held by the diplomat with relevant page numbers where the post is discussed in the transcript.
The transcripts of the interviews make fascinating reading, they are not only a rich resource for historians but also a window into the machinery of government of the time. Just dipping in to Byatt’s recollections when working for the Foreign Service in Havana, there is a fascinating personal insight into the Cuban Missile Crisis, with gems such as:
‘Our Glaswegian archivist, Rob Cappie, was held up to wait for a huge missile on a low-loader to lumber out of the Havana dockyard on to the main road. This, we were told subsequently, was the first definite confirmation that the Soviets had intercontinental missiles in Cuba.’
Purpose-built in 1973 to house Sir Winston Churchill’s Papers, the Churchill Archives Centre is home to the papers of almost 600 important political, military and scientific figures from the Churchill era and after. Contemporaries of Winston Churchill sit alongside major political, military and scientific figures such as: Margaret Thatcher, Ernest Bevin, John Major, Neil Kinnock, Admiral Ramsay, Field Marshal Slim, Frank Whittle and Rosalind Franklin.
Hannah Chandler, Official Papers Librarian, Bodleian Libraries