Guide to British Archives

This is a list of some of the guides describing archival collections in Great Britain, including both official archives and personal papers, which are available either online or in print.  It also includes sources describing official and unofficial records relating to the former colonies and to other foreign countries.

General Guides

British archives: a guide to archive resources in the United Kingdom.  Janet Foster . 3rd ed. New York, N.Y., Stockton Press, 1995.
Butler Reference Desk R027.2 F81411

The National Register of Archives  is an index of archives and manuscripts relating to British history, searchable by name (including businesses) and location. 

AIM25 is an online index to the archives of educational institutions, learned societies, and cultural organizations in the London area.  It can be searched by subject, name, and places.

Official Archives

The National Archives, created in 2003 when the Public Record Office merged with the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, is the official archive for government material.  Its holdings are all listed in the online catalog, but the various specialized publications, some of which are listed below, can be useful in identifying collections.

Great Britain. Public Record Office. Guide to the contents of the Public Record Office. London, H.M. Stationery Off., 1963-68.
Butler Reference R016.942 G7921
v. 1. Legal records, etc.
v. 2. State papers and departmental records.
v. 3. Documents transferred 1960-1966.
A useful introduction to the arrangement and contents of the current National Archives.

Great Britain. Public Record Office. The records of the Foreign Office 1782-1939. London, H.M. Stationery Off., 1969.
Butler Reference R016.942 G79
A very detailed description of the types of records produced.

Wilson, Stephen Shipley. The Cabinet Office to 1945. London, H.M.S.O., 1975.
Butler Reference R016.942 G798

PRIVATE PAPERS OF POLITICAL FIGURES

Brooke, John. The Prime Ministers' papers, 1801-1902; a survey of the privately preserved papers of those statesmen who held the Office of Prime Minister during the 19th century. London, HMSO, 1968.
Butler Reference R016.942 B79

Great Britain. Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. Papers of British Cabinet Ministers, 1782-1900.
London : H.M.S.O., 1982.
Butler Reference R016.942 G94 no. 1

Great Britain. Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts .  Papers of British politicians 1782-1900.London, H.M.S.O., 1989.
Butler Reference R016.942 G94 no. 7
Emphasizes members of the House of Commons and House of Lords, but includes papers (if located) of other political figures.

Great Britain. Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts.  Private papers of British diplomats, 1782-1900. London : H.M.S.O.,1985.
Butler Reference R016.942 G94 no. 4
Lists surviving private papers of diplomats, consuls and Foreign Office officials.

Hazlehurst, Cameron. A guide to the papers of British cabinet ministers, 1900-1964. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Butler Reference R016.942 H331

The Routledge guide to British political archives : sources since 1945. Chris Cook in association with the LSE Library. New York : Routledge, 2006.
Butler Reference R016.942 R765
Describes the archives of some 1500 individuals and societies involved in British public life after 1945.

Sources in British political history, 1900-1951: compiled for the British Library of Political and Economic Science.    New York, St. Martin's Press, 1975-1985.
Butler Reference R016.942 C77
v. 1. A guide to the archives of selected organisations and societies.
v. 2. A guide to the private papers of selected public servants.
v. 3. A guide to the private papers of members of Parliament: A-K.
v. 4. A guide to the private papers of members of Parliament: L-Z.
v. 5. A guide to the private papers of selected writers, intellectuals, and publicists.
v. 6. First consolidated supplement

ECONOMICS, BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY

Great Britain. Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts.  Records of British business and industry 1760-1914.
London : H.M.S.O., 1990-1994.
v. 1 Textiles and leather
v. 2 Metal processing and engineering
Butler Reference R016.942 G94 no. 8, 9

Mathias, Peter. Shipping: a survey of historical records. Newton Abbot, David and Charles, 1971.
Butler Reference R016.942 M426

Pressnell, L. S. A guide to the historical records of British banking. New York, St. Martin's Press, 1985.
Offsite Z7164.F5 P68 1985

Richmond, Lesley. Company archives : the survey of the records of 1000 of the first registered companies in England and Wales. Aldershot, Hants, England, Gower, 1986.
Butler Reference R016.33 R41
Most of the companies were registered in the 1870’s and 1880’s.

Sturges, R. P. Economists' papers, 1750-1950 : a guide to archive and other manuscript sources for the history of British and Irish economic thought. London, Macmillan, 1975.
Butler Reference R016.942 Ec74

Military

Cantwell, John D. The Second World War: a guide to documents in the Public Record Office. Kew, Richmond, Surrey, Public Record Office, 1998.
Butler Reference R016.942 C161

Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives is housed at King’s College, London and includes the private papers of over 700 senior defense personnel who held office from 1900. There are also links to the papers of military figures in other libraries.

Mayer, S. L. The two World Wars: a guide to manuscript collections in the United Kingdom. London. Bowker, 1976.
Butler Reference R016.94091 M45

Roper, Michael. The records of the War Office and related departments, 1660-1964. Kew : Public Record Office, 1998.
Butler Reference R016.942 R577

Religion

Great Britain. Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts . Papers of British churchmen 1780-1940. London, H.M.S.O., 1987.
Butler Reference R016.942 G94 no. 6
Lists the private papers of more than 800 churchmen and women.

Science and Technology

Great Britain. Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. The Manuscript papers of British scientists, 1600-1940. London, H.M.S.O., 1982.
Butler Reference R016.942 G94 no. 2
Lists the private papers of 635 scientists, engineers, and technologists.

Jubb, Michael. Guide to the records relating to science and technology in the British Public Record Office : a ramp study. Paris, United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 1984.
Offsite CD1046 1984

Social Sciences

Alford, B. W. E. Economic planning, 1943-51: a guide to documents in the Public Record Office. London, HMSO, 1992.
Butler Reference R016.942 G78

Barrow, Margaret. Women, 1870-1928: a select guide to printed and archival sources in the United Kingdom. London, Mansell, 1981.
Butler Reference R016.396 B279

Bridgen, Paul. Welfare policy under the Conservatives, 1951-1964: a guide to documents in the Public Record Office. London, Public Record Office, 1998.
Offsite HV248 .B74 1998g

Cook, Chris. The St. Martin's guide to sources in contemporary British history . Compiled for the British Library of Political and Economic Science. New York, St. Martin's Press, 1994.
Butler Reference R016.942085 C77
v.1. Organisations and societies
v.2. Individuals

Great Britain. Public Record Office. Records of interest to social scientists, 1919 to 1939: employment and unemployment. London, H.M.S.O., 1978.
Butler Reference R016.331 G79

Land, Andrew. Development of the welfare state, 1939-1951: a guide to documents in the Public Record Office. London, HMSO, 1992.
Butler Reference R339.042 L22

RECORDS RELATING TO BRITISH COLONIES AND OTHER COUNTRIES

Since Great Britain was involved, directly or indirectly, with most of the world at one time or another, many British sources are useful for histories of other countries, and this is a list of some of the sources available in Great Britain.  It does not include the many sources related to the United States; there are so many of these guides, they deserve their own listing.

General Guides

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office Historical Collection is housed at King’s College, London, and consists of the collections of the Foreign and Commonwealth Library.  It includes published and unpublished material relating to foreign countries from the 1600’s.

Great Britain. Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts.  Private papers of British Colonial governors 1782-1900. London, H.M.S.O., 1986.
Butler Reference R016.942 G94 no. 5
Lists the surviving papers of colonial governors and other senior Colonial Office officials.

Pugh, R. B. The records of the Colonial and Dominions Offices. London, H. M. S.O., 1964.
Butler Reference R016.942 P96
A detailed description of the arrangement of the records from 1660 to the early 20th century.  Includes a list by country of the types of records available.

Africa

Matthews, Noel. A guide to manuscripts and documents in the British Isles relating to Africa.  London, Oxford University Press, 1971.
Butler Reference R016.96 M43
Lists official and unofficial papers covering Africa south of the Sahara.

Matthews, Noel. Materials for West African history in the archives of the United Kingdom. London, Athlone Press, 1973.
Butler Reference R016.966 M41

Thurston, Anne. Guide to archives and manuscripts relating to Kenya and East Africa in the United Kingdom. London, Hans Zell Publishers, 1991.
Butler Stacks Z3587 .T48 1991
v. 1. Official records
v. 2. Non-official archives and manuscripts

Middle East

Jones, A. Philip. Britain and Palestine, 1914-1948: archival sources for the history of the British Mandate. Oxford, Oxford University Press for the British Academy, 1979.
Butler Reference R016.9569 J72

Matthews, Noel. A Guide to manuscripts and documents in the British Isles relating to the Middle East and North Africa .Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1980.
Butler Reference R016.956 M43

Far East

Matthews, Noel. A guide to manuscripts and documents in the British Isles relating to the Far East. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1977.
Butler Reference R016.95 M43

India and South Asia

Axelby, Richard. Science and the changing environment in India, 1780-1920 : a guide to sources in the India Office Records. London, The British Library, 2010.
Butler Stacks Q127.I4 A945 2010g

Khan, Shafaʼat Ahmad, Sir. Sources for the history of British India in the seventeenth century. London, Oxford university press, 1926.
Butler Reference R016.954 K52

Seton, Rosemary E. The Indian 'Mutiny' 1857-58: a guide to source material in the India Office Library and Records. London, The British Library, 1986.
Butler Stacks Z3208.A4 S48 1986

Wainwright, Mary Doreen. A guide to Western manuscripts and documents in the British Isles relating to South and South East Asia. London, Oxford University Press, 1965.
Butler Reference R016.95 W133

Latin America

A Guide to manuscript sources for the history of Latin America and the Caribbean in the British Isles. London, Oxford University Press [for] the Institute of Latin American Studies, University of London, 1973.
Butler Reference R016.98 W16

Russia

Hartley, Janet M. Guide to documents and manuscripts in the United Kingdom relating to Russia and the Soviet Union. London, Mansell Pub., 1987.
Butler Reference R016.947 H255