British Diplomatic Oral History Centre

 

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.

byatt

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.

Researchers can access the collections by an alphabetical list of contributors or subject guide. You can keep up to date with their news at their twitter account @ChuArchives

 

Hannah Chandler, Official Papers Librarian, Bodleian Libraries

Cabinet Office at 100

December 1916 saw the first official record of a Cabinet Office meeting under the first Cabinet Secretary,  Maurice Hankey (Lord Hankey of the Chart 1877-1963). As the Cabinet Office sits at the heart of government its role is crucial to the development and effective implementation of government policies in the past and today. The historical record of the Cabinet is of paramount importance to the historian. A wealth of information can be found in their records on events such as World War One and the Suez Crisis.

As part of the 100 year celebration the Cabinet Office hosted a panel discussion, 100 years of Cabinet Secretarties – six in discussion which was posted on the Cabinet Service blog

The records of the Cabinet Office are held at the National Archives , who have a new resource, Cabinet Office 100 and an online guide Cabinet and its Committees. At the end of the guide there is also a useful guide to further reading. Many now have been digitised and are available at Cabinet Office Papers, a useful review on the papers has been written by Dr Michael Hopkins in ‘Reviews in History‘. Please note, Cabinet papers are subject to the 30 year rule.

Two new books on the Cabinet Office are now available:

Official Histories of the Cabinet Secretaries, by Ian Beesley, 2017

Cabinet Office 1916-2016: the Birth of Modern Government, by Anthoy Seldon and Jonathan Meakin, 2016

Today the Cabinet Office have their own twitter account, @CabinetOffice and YouTube channel, cabinetofficeuk. At the UK Government Web Archive hosted by the National Archives you will find archived twitter, video and websites relevant to the Cabinet Office.

Hannah Chandler, Official Papers Librarian, Bodleian Libraries Oxford.

 

 

 

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historical Collection

The Foreign Office was created in 1782 and merged to become the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in 1968. The historical library collection of the FCO was transferred to  Kings College London in 2007 on permanent loan. The collection comprises of over 80,000 items to include photographs and manuscripts. For the historian this is an excellent primary resource. As the FCO was the department responsible for the conduct of relations with nearly all foreign states they are a window to Britain’s colonial past covering subjects such as slavery and the abolition of, railways, expeditions, diplomatic relations and war.

The majority of the collection is housed in the Foyle Special Collections Library. Anyone can view the collections though if you are not a member of Kings College a prior appointment is advisable. The collection is not lending but copies can be supplied and readers are allowed to use their own cameras. Approximately 50% of the collection is not catalogued but the library team welcome enquiries about subject coverage and will locate relevant material for viewing.  For material that is catalogued the main library catalogue can be used.

The records of the department and staff itself are held by The National Archives who also hold substantial collections of FCO material.

For a quick overview please see the introductory leaflet.

Hannah Chandler, Bodleian Libraries Oxford

Digitization of the House of Lords papers 1800-1910

Available from November 2015, Proquest has partnered with the National Library of Scotland to provide this set of papers for the first time in digital format. The papers will be available via the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers database on a subscription basis.

‘As the working documents of government, the House of Lords Parliamentary Papers encompass wide areas of social, political, economic and foreign policy, providing evidence of committees and commissions during a time when the Lords in the United Kingdom wielded considerable power. Most importantly from a legislative perspective, this collection will include many bills which originated and were subsequently rejected by the Lords – rich indicators of the direction and interests of the Lords that have been largely lost to researchers.’

Hannah Chandler, Official Papers Librarian, Bodleian Libraries

Key issues for the 2015 Parliament

Written for Members of Parliament by House of Commons Library researchers but useful to everyone interested in current topics of the day.  ‘Key issues for the 2015 Parliament‘ gives a description of the major issues facing Parliament with details of further reading.

Hannah Chandler, Official Papers Librarian, Bodleian Libraries

Modern Political Papers at the Bodleian Library

The Bodleian Library holds one of the largest concentrations of modern British political manuscripts and archives, providing a breadth of coverage which makes it a resource of national and international significance. The collections have been drawn from the private papers of politicians from all three major political parties, as well as from public servants (mainly diplomats), print and broadcast journalists, and others active in public life. In scale the collections range in size from over 2000 boxes to a single diary.

Prime Ministers and the Cabinet

This unrivalled resource includes the papers of six of Britain’s twentieth-century Prime Ministers: H.H. Asquith (1852-1928), Clement Attlee (1883-1967), Harold Macmillan (1894-1986), Harold Wilson (1916-95), Edward Heath (1916-2005) and James Callaghan (1912-2005), and one from the nineteenth century, Benjamin Disraeli (1804-81) (see also our online Disraeli exhibition). The Library also holds the manuscripts and archives of over forty British Cabinet Ministers, from the Liberal minister John Morley (1838-1923) to the papers of the Labour cabinet minister and campaigner, Barbara Castle (1910-2002).