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History - British: Primary Sources

A general guide for researching British history

Primary Sources

Digitized Collections Online

British History Online

British History Online is a digital library of key printed primary and secondary sources for the history of Britain and Ireland, with a primary focus on the period between 1300 and 1800.  Includes digitized datasets, guides, calendars, maps, primary sources, and secondary texts.

British Library Digital Collections

Includes Digitised ManuscriptsTreasures in FullCatalogue of Illuminated ManuscriptsEarly Photographically Illustrated BooksHenry VIII: Man and MonarchMaps of the UKThe Unveling of BritainCrace Collection of Maps of LondonKing George III Topographical CollectionMaps of EuropeMaps of AsiaMaps of Africa, and Maps of the Americas.

British Library Labs

Experiment with digital collections from the British Library.  As part of the British Library's aim to open its data to wider use, a selection of digital datasets are available for download for research and creative purposes.

Connected Histories: British History Sources, 1500-1900

Connected Histories brings together a range of digital resources related to early modern and nineteenth century Britain with a single federated search that allows sophisticated searching of names, places and dates, as well as the ability to save, connect and share resources within a personal workspace.

Defining Gender, 1450-1910 

"Advice Literature for men and women." Access to approximately 50,000 images of original manuscript and printed material, including a strong core of documents from the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Ephemeral material such as ballads, cartoons and pamphlets are featured alongside diaries, advice literature, medical journals, conduct books and periodicals. Structured into five sections: Conduct and Politeness (Section I), Domesticity and the Family (Section II), Consumption and Leisure (Section III) , Education and Sensibility (Section IV) and The Body (Section V).

Early English Books Online (EEBO) w/Text Creation Partnership (TCP) transcriptions 

Digital facsimile page images of books, pamphlets, newspapers, and manuscripts of works printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America as well as works in English printed elsewhere. From the first book published in English through the age of Spenser and Shakespeare, this collection contains the texts of about 100,000 of over 125,000 titles listed in Pollard and Redgrave's Short-Title Catalogue (1475-1640) and Wing's Short-Title Catalogue (1641-1700) and their revised editions, as well as the Thomason Tracts (1640-1661) collection and the Early English Books Tract Supplement. Coverage includes English literature, history, philosophy, linguistics, theology, music, fine arts, education, mathematics, and science.

Empire Online 

Over 60,000 manuscripts and documents covering the reach of the British Empire, all the way to Australasia, South Asia, Africa, and the Americas.  Also includes references to biographies and chronologies. 

Europeana Collections

Explore 58,246,083 artworks, artefacts, books, films and music from European museums, galleries, libraries and archives

Folger Digital Texts

Digital texts from the Folger Shakespeare Library

Legacies of British Slave-ownership

The Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership has been established at University College London (UCL) with the generous support of the Hutchins Center at Harvard. The Centre will build on two earlier projects based at UCL tracing the impact of slave-ownership on the formation of modern Britain: the ESRC-funded Legacies of British Slave-ownership project (2009-2012), and the ESRC and AHRC-funded Structure and significance of British Caribbean slave-ownership 1763-1833 (2013-2015).

Manuscripts Online

Manuscripts Online enables you to search a diverse body of online primary resources relating to written and early printed culture in Britain during the period 1000 to 1500. The resources include literary manuscripts, historical documents and early printed books which are located on websites owned by libraries, archives, universities and publishers.

Parliamentary Papers (House of Commons)

British parliamentary documents, including Command Papers.  All areas of social, political, economic and foreign policy. Searchable full-text, with detailed subject indexing.

Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive 

Includes documents from the United States and Europe as well as other parts of the world. In addition to newspaper collections and books published in the antebellum era, this resource also includes documents from several archives originally available only on microfilm. This first iteration, Debates over Slavery and Abolition, contains: Over 1.5 million cross-searchable pages; 7,247 books, 80 serials, more than fifteen manuscript collections, & court records; Reference materials from Macmillan, Scribners, & Gale encyclopedias as well as newly commissioned resources; Material published through partnerships with the Amistad Research Center, Oberlin College, Oxford University, & other institutions.  The second interation covers the slave trade.

The Proceedings of the Old Bailey - London's Central Criminal Court, 1674-1913

A fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London's central criminal court.

Center for Research Libraries

The Center for Research Libraries has a number of microfilmed collections, international newspapers, and official documents from countries outside the U.S. 

CRL: Center for Research Libraries

The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) is an international consortium of university, college, and independent research libraries. Founded in 1949, CRL supports original research and inspired teaching in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences by preserving and making available to scholars a wealth of rare and uncommon primary source materials from all world regions.

CRL: Ethnic Newspapers Search

CRL Topic Guides

Each guide includes a short writeup on the landscape of the field of study, links to relevant primary source collections at CRL, and links out to related sources.

  • Great Britain
    • CRL collects and maintains extensive archival collections related to Great Britain. In addition to major microform sets, CRL holds numerous historical newspaper runs and dissertations acquired on deposit and in response to schoar requests.  British material represents one of the strongest areas of CRL's international collections.
  • ​​​Great Britain. Foreign Office
    • The Center has an extensive collection of microfilm of Foreign Office records, acquired from the Public Record Office and from various commercial micropublishers. The following presents a sample of what may be found in CRL's catalog. Notable collections may also be listed in the respective regional Topic Guides. 

UK Special Collections and Research Center

Finding Aids

John B. Breckinridge Collection, 1931-1979
Former Kentucky Attorney General (1959-1963, 1967-1971) and Member of Congress (1972-1978).  *See Box 651 Folder 11 - Britain's Most Important Investment for Defense, Folder 12 - Britain's NATO Army, and Folder 13 - British Defense Options: A Gaullist Perspective, Box 656 Folder 19 - "International Affairs: British Foreign Policy to 1985."  688 boxes, 1 oversized box 

Darbishire Family Papers, 1751-1948, 1883-1919 (bulk dates)

The Darbishire family papers (dated 1751-1948, bulk 1883-1919; 7.5 cubic feet; 21 boxes) consist of correspondence, essays, articles, pamphlets, newspaper clippings, and diaries from six generations of the Shelby family of Kentucky and four generations of the Darbishires of England and America.

William Cassius Goodloe Civil War Scrapbooks, 1860-1865

The William Cassius Goodloe Civil War scrapbooks (dated 1860-1865; 0.6 cubic feet; 2 items) consists of two scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings about the Civil War.  Important European events of the period are also represented in the scrapbooks, including the liberation of serfs in Russia and the death of Albert, the British Prince Consort.

Oral Histories - (Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History)

American Veterans: World War Two Oral History Project

World War II veterans from Kentucky discuss campaigns in Europe, Africa, and the Pacific; the attack on Pearl Harbor; Anzio, Italy; the Battle of the Bulge; the United States Army Air Force; bombing raids; Iwo Jima, Japan; Saipan; Guam; kamikaze attacks; submarine warfare; the Bataan Death March in the Philippines; the Palawan Massacre in the Philippines; and the experiences of prisoners of war. Also included are interviews with women veterans of various services and organizations. The interviews with General William R. Buster are also at the Kentucky Oral History Commission (see Collection Number 18-15).  *See interview with Patricia Fitzgerald Smith, November 29, 1994 (Includes British Red Cross).

Periodicals & Newspapers

Newspapers, pamphlets, broadsides and books from London, the British Isles and the colonies gathered by the Reverend Charles Burney (1757-1817): "the largest and most comprehensive collection of early English news media." The present digital collection totals almost 1 million pages and contains approximately 1,270 titles. 
Consists of 19th century newspapers specially selected by the British Library to best represent 19th century Britain. Includes national and regional newspapers (e.g.,  those from both established country or university towns and the new industrial areas of the manufacturing Midlands) as well as publications from Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Special attention was paid to newspapers that helped lead particular political or social movements such as Reform, Chartism, and Home Rule. The penny papers aimed at the working and clerical classes are also present in the collection.

Aggregates scholarly indexes to journals, newspapers, books, documents, art work, and images. Contains over 27 million discrete links to primary source historical documents.  Includes American and British periodicals, newspapers, books, patents, image archives, government documents, and U.S. Patents.


Access World News (NewsBank) 
Contains 3687 sources from 152 countries, including print and online-only newspapers, blogs, newswires, journals, broadcast transcripts and videos.

E-Journals A-Z

Search this resource for specific newspapers, current and historical, by title. Provides access information for paper and electronic formats.

Early American Newspapers
Full-text, mostly late 18th/early 19th century, covering colonial and early American history, with titles from 23 states and DC.

Searchable facsimile edition of The Economist, published weekly since 1843. In 8,000 issues and more than 600,000 pages, EHA offers full-colour images, multiple search indexes, topic and area supplements and surveys, together with a gallery of front covers and a selection of exportable financial tables.
Financial Times Historical Archive, 1888-2016 
Searchable run of every item ever printed in the paper through 2016. Special supplements and the FT Magazine are included.

The Illustrated London News

Special Collections has the following issues: 1842-1896, 1898-1910, 1915-1955. Also available online, 1842-2003.

Newspaper Source
Provides selected full-text for nearly 35 national (U.S.) and international newspapers, including USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post, The Times (London), and The Toronto Star. Also contains selected full-text for more than 375 regional (U.S.) newspapers, including The Boston Globe, The Chicago Tribune, The Detroit Free Press, The Miami Herald, The New York Daily News, and The San Jose Mercury News. In addition, full-text television & radio news transcripts are provided from CBS News, FOX News, NPR, and other sources.

Nexis Uni
Includes access to over 5,600 news, business, legal, medical and reference publications (most full-text, the rest abstracted), primarily newspapers, magazines and journals. Covers local, regional and international newspapers (in English and non-English languages). Includes broadcast transcripts, case law, legal codes, regulations, Shepard's Citations to Supreme Court cases (back to 1789), company financial information, and SEC filings and reports.


Special Collections has the following issues: v.1(1841) - v.49(1865), v.60(1871) - v.67(1874), v.81(1881:July-Dec.), v.86(1884) - v.87(1884), v.92(1887) - v.93(1887), v.100(1891) - v.225 (1953).  Also available: Williams, Ronald Earnest. A Century of Punch Cartoons. London: W. Heinemann, 1956 - Fine Arts Library - Book Stacks (NC1478 .P83 1956)