Skip to main content

British Diplomatic Oral History Programme

Reference Code: GBR/0014/DOHP

Scope and Contents

The programme comprises transcripts of interviews with senior diplomats.


  • Creation: 1995 - 2023

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge.

Material in this collection is open to researchers unless otherwise marked in the catalogue.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.

Biographical / Historical

The British Diplomatic Oral History Programme records the recollections of former diplomats. Through these oral histories, which are conserved at the Churchill Archives Centre, the Programme aims to go behind the official documents to explore how diplomats experienced significant events as well as providing valuable insights into the daily workings of diplomacy. The BDOHP transcripts are increasingly recognised as a valuable source by scholars, writers, journalists and researchers.

Founded in 1995 by the late Malcolm McBain, the Programme has been directed since 2013 by Professor Patrick Salmon OBE, Chief Historian at the FCDO, and managed by Abbey Wright MBE, a former diplomatic spouse, who together with a team of volunteer recorders conduct and transcribe the interviews. At Churchill College, the Programme’s archivist is Katharine Thomson.


232 file(s) : paper

Language of Materials



Each interview counts as one separate file.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The BDOHP was originally established in 1995 as the result of an approach by Charles Stuart Kennedy in Washington to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1991. Mr Kennedy, a retired US Foreign Service officer, was at that time Director of the Foreign Affairs Oral History Program at the Lauinger Library at Georgetown University. He thought the British Diplomatic Service should know about the United States program and the advantages to scholarship and training to be derived from it, and might wish to consider developing a programme on similar lines.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office thought the idea was a good one but was not willing to take it forward itself for budgetary reasons. The FCO passed the challenge to Malcolm McBain, a retired Diplomatic Service officer, to take up in a private, unsubsidised capacity. Stuart Kennedy provided unstinting encouragement and advice and the unofficial link between the American and the British oral history programmes still flourishes today.

The BDOHP received further practical help and encouragement from the Department of Politics at Leicester University from 1995 to 1997 when the programme was transferred to its present home at the Churchill Archives Centre.

Related Materials

See also the British Oral Archive of Political and Administrative History (BOAPAH) at the Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science, the American Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) at and and also recorded interviews with Cabinet Secretaries at


This collection (fonds) level description and catalogue were prepared by Katharine Thomson at Churchill Archives Centre, from an existing catalogue.


British Diplomatic Oral History Programme


2002-03-12 12:02:20+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Churchill Archives Centre Repository

Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill College
Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB3 0DS United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 336087