History of the UK government

In this section you can read short biographies of notable people and explore the history of government buildings. You can also search our online records and read articles and blog posts by historians.

Why is history important?

Governments are remembered for their leaders and the course they set for their country. The British government has a long and fascinating history, and exploring its past can help us understand how it is run today.

The information here provides a starting point for research. It includes objective factual content and research carried out by independent and civil service historians.

An old painting of the Horse Guards building.
Thomas Shotter Boys – A View of the Horse Guards from Whitehall. Government Art Collection.

Notable people

You can find out about the life and achievements of those who have led the government as Prime Minister, alongside those who have held the roles of Chancellor and Foreign Secretary.

Government buildings

Number 10 Downing Street is the best known government building, but there are others that play a role in the day-to-day business of government and have had a significant role in our history.

You can learn more about the background and take tours of several of the buildings used by government on Whitehall and around the UK.

Documents and records

The National Archives is preserving UK government information from letters and treaties to web pages Cabinet papers. You can search the archive, or browse the themed collections.

You can also explore the Government Art Collection online, which contains over 13,500 works of art, mainly from British artists.

Articles and blog posts

Some government departments, including Number 10 and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, write or commission articles and research to improve our knowledge of the history of the British government.

Find out more on the history of government blog.

More sources

Many institutions in the UK, including universities, museums and libraries, hold information about the history of our government. The following websites may be useful for further research: