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Macmillan Cabinet Papers, 1957-1963

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Editorial Board:

  • Dr Mark Jarvis, formerly Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Dr Michael David Kandiah, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Contemporary British History, and Joint Editor of Contemporary British History
  • Dr Philip Murphy, Department of History, University of Reading
  • Gillian Staerck, formerly Research Fellow at the Institute for Contemporary British History
  • Dr John Turner, formerly Vice Principal and Professor of Modern History and Politics at Royal Holloway, University of London, and author of Macmillan (Longman, 1994)

Source Library:

  • The National Archives, UK

Nature of Material:

Original British government documents - mostly in typescript but with manuscript annotations. Many records of meetings and letters of world leaders.

Scope of Collection:

Macmillan Cabinet Papers provides direct access to documents from the highest level of government during the Macmillan Administration. With images taken from CAB 128 and CAB 129 as well as selected files from PREM 11 and CAB 124, this project is as important a source for world history as it is for British politics.

Featured topics include:

  • The aftermath of Suez and a new Middle East policy, 1957-1963
  • The foundation of the EEC by the Treaty of Rome, 1957
  • The 1957 Defence White Paper, a landmark in British defence policy
  • The first British Hydrogen Bomb Test, 1957, and the decision to site Thor missiles in the UK
  • The Wolfenden Report on Homosexuality and Prostitution, 1957
  • The Declaration of Common Purpose, October 1957, providing a unified world outlook for the UK, USA and Canada
  • West Indian Independence, 1958
  • The Berlin Crisis, 1958-1961, including the building of the Berlin Wall
  • Macmillan's visit to Moscow, 1959, and his exchanges with Khrushchev
  • The Antarctica Treaty of 1959
  • The political and military situation in Laos and South East Asia, 1959-1963
  • Independence for Cyprus and Malta, 1959-1963
  • The launch of Britain's first nuclear submarine
  • The establishment of EFTA by the Stockholm Convention, 1960
  • The ‘Wind of Change’ Speech, February 1960
  • Independence for Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Malawi and Zanzibar
  • The Sharpeville Massacre, March 1960, and apartheid in South Africa
  • Macmillan's Washington visit in March 1960, which confirmed that Britain would have an independent nuclear deterrent in the form of Skybolt or Polaris
  • South Africa's withdrawal from the Commonwealth, 1961
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962
  • The Commonwealth Immigration Act, 1962
  • The Nassau Agreement of December 1962, and Macmillan's relations with President Kennedy
  • The uprising in Brunei, 1962
  • The Pilkington Report on Broadcasting, 1962
  • De Gaulle's veto of Britain's application to join the EEC, January 1963
  • The foundation of the Organisation of African Unity, 1963
  • The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, 1963
  • The Profumo Scandal, June 1963

There is correspondence and records of discussions with many of the key figures of the era including Acheson, Adenauer, de Gaulle, Diefenbaker, Douglas-Home, Dulles, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Khrushchev, Macleod, Ormsby-Gore, Rusk, Sandys, Spaak, Welensky and Whitehead; and much material concerning Banda, Castro, Gizenga, Lee Kuan Yew, Kaunda, Kenyatta, Nasser, Nyerere, Phouma, Phoumi and Rahman.

At the centre of this digital collection is the complete coverage of the Cabinet Conclusions [Minutes] (CAB 128) and Memoranda (CAB 129), including recently released material. These classes provide a distillation of the work of all the other departments of government, ranging in subject matter from agricultural policy and trade, to nuclear policy and issues of international diplomacy.

Macmillan Cabinet Papers also offers unique access to 165 files from the records of the Prime Minister's Private Office (PREM 11). These provide an important supplement to Cabinet Records and cover all aspects of policy making. They are particularly valuable in providing:

  • Records of meetings of Macmillan and other key Government figures with leading international statesmen.
  • Correspondence with, and memoranda from, Government advisors, such as Philip de Zulueta, Burke Trend, Norman Brook and Timothy Bligh (Whitehall or Private Office staff), Robert Hall and Alec Cairncross (Government Economic Advisors), Roy Harrod (also on economic policy) and Solly Zuckerman (on nuclear affairs).
  • More detail on key policies, such as ‘the Grand Design’ on European and foreign policy, papers by Douglas-Home and Macleod on colonial policy in Africa, views on ‘The Future of Anglo-American Relations’, and the drafting of Macmillan's ‘Wind of Change’ speech.
  • Discussions of the annual budget, including extensive correspondence with successive Chancellors of the Exchequer and the Treasury.
  • Files on ‘Ministers’ which help to explain Cabinet reshuffles and illuminate crises such as the Vassall and Profumo scandals.
  • Views from Conservative Party Central Office on image and presentation, and ways of making policies attractive to the electorate.
  • Records of unofficial Cabinet meetings, such as weekend sessions at Chequers to discuss Europe and the Commonwealth.

Two volumes from PRO Class CAB 134 (Cabinet Committees) are also included. These feature Minutes and Memoranda of the Colonial Policy Committee, 1957, and of a committee convened to discuss ‘Future Policy’, 1959-1960. As such, they are essential sources for the study of decolonisation, Commonwealth affairs, nuclear policy and foreign and defence policy.

All of these class lists, annual indexes and essays can be accessed and browsed from the contents option on the search screen, or by using the keyword search facility. Readers can then click on the document reference to see images of the original documents. All of these images can be printed subject to fair use restrictions.

Teachers can create their own pathways through the source material, as well as exploring the routes suggested by the five introductory essays, written by leading experts in their field. Able to understand the challenges of such sources, students will be excited by the experience of working with them and encouraged to pursue further research with microfilm sets or with the original documents.

See also: Archives Direct