An historic motherlode

I was lucky enough to hit an historic motherlode and as a Knowledge Maverick, I was in a unique position to exploit it.

I worked in the UK Government’s Cabinet Office which holds a central role supporting the UK Prime Minister and ensuring the efficient running of government. The Cabinet Office was established by Prime Minister David Lloyd George in December 1916, during the First World War. This was when the Committee of Imperial Defence organised the War Cabinet and the first Cabinet Secretary was Sir Maurice Hankey.

The Cabinet Office’s work is an integral part the history of the United Kingdom over the past 100 years. As the Cabinet Office’s knowledge manager, I introduced History Week as a means for staff:

  • to learn from the past
  • to inform today’s work, and
  • to consider one’s own legacy through saving records and conserving the corporate memory.

To learn how I used this resource for the benefit of the organisation, look at the ‘Bringing history to life‘ page.

Publicly available information

You too can learn about some of this history. Here are sources:

The National Archives at Kew hold the Cabinet Office’s official records which are released to the public under the 30 year rule, and now being reduced to the 20 year rule.

Listen to UK Confidential on BBC Radio 4 to get a flavour of what happened in the 1970s and 1980s. This podcast is based on the official records at The National Archives.

Since its inception, the Cabinet Office has hosted an Official History programme, where professional historians write authoritative histories in their own right. These histories offer a reliable secondary source for historians until the official records are released to The National Archives. They also have been a fund of experience for future government use.

This is a list of the most recently published Official Histories which can be ordered from Taylor and Francis.

  • Joint Intelligence Committee, Volume 1 by Dr Michael Goodman (2014)
  • Special Operations Executive (SOE) in Italy,  Volume 1 by Professor David Stafford, (2011) and Volume 2 by Roderick Bailey (2014)
  • The Official History of Britain and the European Community, Volume 2  by Sir Stephen Wall (2012)
  • The Official History of Privatisation, Volume 1 (2009) and Vol 2 (2012) Professor David Parker
  • The Official History of North Sea Oil and Gas, Volumes 1 and 2 by Professor Alex Kemp (2011)
  • The Official History of the Civil Service, Volume 1 by Professor Rodney Lowe (2011)
  • Secrecy and the Media: the Official history of the D-Notice System  by Rear Admiral Nick Wilkinson (2009)
  • Churchill’s Man of Mystery: Desmond Morton and the World of Intelligence by Gill Bennett (2006, paperback 2009)
  • The Channel Tunnel by Dr Terry Gourvish (2006)

The list goes back to the Official Histories of World War One, which in themselves stretch to 75 volumes, the last of which was published in 1949. The last person in Cabinet Office who was intimately knowledgeable of the WWI Official Histories series gave a talk at History Week in 2014, and then retired, taking his knowledge with him. That was a piece of history itself when Nick Weekes walked out the door.