Skip to Main Content

Official Papers for the History of Medicine: Archive/departmental publications

Useful Resources

Searching for departmental publications

As a legal deposit library the Bodleian has an excellent collection of departmental publications. Early material may not be catalogued or may be difficult to find. Please contact for assistance. Material not formally published such as the working papers of a committee will be the remit of the National Archives

In the first instance search SOLO 

Other useful catalogues: 

COPAC - search over 90 major UK and Irish library catalogues in one go. 

British Library catalogue

WorldCat Search for material worldwide  (Single Sign On is necessary for searching outside the University network)

Confidential Prints

The Foreign Office Confidential Prints and Colonial Confidential Prints

Two separate database are available to search.

The Foreign Office documents are held on open shelf in the Official Papers section,  the Colonial Office prints are available to order to a reading room of your choice. 

 From the 1820s papers of significance began to be distributed to officials in the Foreign Office, Cabinet and other departments as Confidential Print. The practice grew until the 1850s when nearly every important dispatch or telegram was routinely printed. The Confidential Prints vary in format from a single page to a substantial volume, many have maps (we have over 700) and diagrams. The documents are numbered 1-10,600 (1827-1914) in roughly order of printing.

For the historian this is an incredible set of primary source documents. They are a window to Britain’s colonial past covering subjects such as plague, slavery and contagious diseases, from Abyssinia to Zanzibar.

Below shows an example from the search return for 'plague'

Department of Health

Administrative history:  

  • Privy Council
  • Board of Health, 1805-1806
  • Central Board of Health, 1831-1832
  • Medical Department, 1858-1871
  • General Board of Health, 1848-1858
  • National Health Insurance Commissions, 1911-1919
  • Ministry of Health, 1919-1968
  • Department of Health and Social Security 1968-1988
  • Department of Health 1988-

  'National Digital Archive of Datasets' (an archived site)  provides a detailed administrative description