Photograph of the first Labour Cabinet, 1924 (Catalogue reference: PRO30-69-1668)

This is a brief guide to help you find records of 20th century political history. The National Archives holds many records for this period, including the correspondence and minutes of major government departments, such as the Home Office, the Foreign Office, the Treasury, the Cabinet Office and the Prime Minister's Office. We also hold the papers of successive Prime Ministers from 1916.

  • What records can I see online?

    • Cabinet Papers (1915-1980)

      Search the Cabinet Papers 1915-1980 on The National Archives' website to view and search a wide range of Cabinet Papers chosen for their historical significance.

    • Parliamentary Papers (1715-present)

      Search Parliamentary Papers (institutional subscription required) for digitised copies of official papers published by the House of Commons and House of Lords.

    • Records of the Stormont administration in Northern Ireland (1921-1972)

      Search Northern Ireland: A Divided Community, 1921-1972 (institutional subscription required).

  • What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

    • Records held locally

      The National Archives' catalogue has details of collections held by over 2500 archives across the UK. Search our catalogue with the names of politicians to find out where their papers are held; you may need to refine your results using the filters.

  • What other resources will help me find information?

    • Websites

      Consult the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (institutional subscription required) for biographies of prominent people.

      Visit The National Archives' online exhibition on Britain 1906-1918, which focuses on welfare reforms, women's suffrage and the impact of war.

Did you know?

The transfer of records from government departments to The National Archives is governed by the 30 year rule (Public Records Act 1958, s.3.4). Under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000, most records are open for research from the time they are transferred here. The rest are closed because FOI exemptions apply, but will be reviewed on request. You can request a review using a link from our catalogue. More information about FOI is available on our website.

The office of the Prime Minister did not exist officially until 1905. The title was not mentioned in the text of any Act of Parliament until the Ministers of the Crown Act 1937.

The National Archives holds the official papers of successive Prime Ministers from 1916 (beginning with David Lloyd George). We also hold some private papers relating to Prime Ministers and their staff both before and after 1916.