The Cabinet Papers banner

Search tips

Choosing keywords

You need to find a balance between being specific enough to get meaningful results, but not being so detailed that you miss records that are not described with the exact terms you have used.

A general search term like 'Navy' will return plenty of references, either in the document title or the content of the document. If the term appears in the title, it is likely that the entire document will be about that subject; it the term appears within the document content it might be a passing reference - but could still be an important point.

Widening your search terms can also help. For example, if you are interested in poverty 'poor' should turn up references to the Poor Laws, and 'economic situation' or 'economic affairs' might bring up discussions of cuts, taxes, subsidies and poverty.

Keep in mind that the terms used by the Cabinet to describe different subjects has changed over time, and sometimes particular words or phrases were used for political reasons. For example, Labour governments frequently used 'public ownership' instead of 'nationalisation'.

Browse by theme

If you are struggling to find relevant records using the search, you can browse a selection of cabinet papers with thematic historical overviews. These pages also show how Cabinet discussion was categorised, and give alternative search terms for particular subjects.

Using search

There are two tabs on the site's search.

Use 'Cabinet papers' to find original documents in Discovery, our catalogue.

Use 'Education resources' to find web pages containing learning materials based on the records.

Searching Cabinet papers

Keyword search

There are three sets of search boxes in this section:

All of these words searches for results that match all of the words you have entered into the search box.

The exact phrase searches for results that match all the words in exactly the order you have entered them into the search box.

At least one of these words searches for results that match either one or more of the words you have entered into the search boxes.

Document type

You can filter your search by document type to find different kinds of information. Choose:

  • Conclusions for Cabinet discussions and agreed action points and decisions
  • Memoranda for papers which were submitted to the Cabinet for discussion, or to give information
  • Notebooks for accounts of Cabinet meetings which give more detail than the Conclusions
  • Precedent Books for policy on how the Cabinet works

You can also search all four types of document at once.


Use this section to set a range of dates that the record covers. You can:

  • Search a date range: enter a range of years using the format YYYY
  • Search a specific date: if you need to be more precise, you can search for one specific day or month in a particular year using the formats MM/YYYY or DD/MM/YYYY

Search within

You can search for keywords within the entire document – that is, the full content of each page of the cabinet papers.

You can also limit your search to the document description, a manually transcribed version of the document only. This includes:

  • Cabinet conclusion date, agenda, attendee list and internal reference
  • Cabinet memoranda title, date, author and internal reference

The 'document description' does not search on the full text of the document.

The National Archives Newsletter Icon

Send me The National Archives’ newsletter

A monthly round-up of news, blogs, offers and events.