This visualisation shows the departments responsible for foreign affairs from 1945 to the present. Clicking on the department names will take you to the corresponding department in Discovery.
Have you ever wondered what happened to those departments that suddenly disappeared years ago? Or perhaps you are trying to find out which department took over the work of ‘Department [X]’?
The aim of this project is to represent changes to the names and functions of government organisations, or departments, which administer the state. These organisations are often referred to as the ‘Machinery of Government’.
In an effort to visually represent Machinery of Government changes, we have constructed the first of a series of timelines. Each timeline will be based on an area of government responsibility and will show the creation, closure and transfer of function between central government departments. The first of the series relates to foreign affairs, and the next will be defence.
Why we created this tool
The National Archives holds a wealth of knowledge about government function and structure, which is ready to be exploited to clarify something that can be confusing. Discovery is being developed to make finding our records easier than ever before and this visualisation provides links to it where possible so that users can find out more about each department and discover the records we hold.
We had also already encoded much of the data to support the innovative Semantic Knowledge Base (SKB) project for the UK Government Web Archive, which uses groundbreaking technology to provide linkages between concepts and help users find resources in the web archive.
Read more in our blogpost.
How to use the tool
We have provided a key within the timeline, which explains the symbols used. There are dates and names of Prime Ministers alongside them to provide historical context at each change.
The timeline provides an accurate overview of changes to government structure over time. However, users should be aware that it:
- shows ministerial departments only, not their associated agencies and public bodies
- covers only the period from 1945 to present day
- will be extended to provide links to more precise information about each department at the time and, where possible, to the SKB
Representing this complex information in an engaging way was always going to be a challenge. We hope that you find this useful and interesting and we welcome your comments.