United Kingdom

Directories

Find an archive in the UK and beyond.

Basic Sources

The Discovery database of the National Archives contains records of archival collections in the National Archives and in 2500 other archives in the UK and elsewhere that hold records of persons and organizations related to the UK.  The National Archives records and those from other archives are searchable separately in Advanced Search.  The records from outside the National Archives include the catalog records formerly in the National Register of Archives and the catalog records and searchable finding aids formerly in A2A (Access to Archives).

  • The NRA collected inventories of collections, termed reports, from repositories all over the British Isles, and many from Ireland. The NRA created indexes of the reports, and the indexes are made available electronically. These records include the name of the creator of each collection (the person who accumulated the papers) and the names of selected other persons represented in each collection, e.g., correspondents. The full set of the reports themselves are available only at the NRA search room in London. The NRA also received brief notices of new accessions which were added to the NRA database, announced in Accessions to Repositories (still available) and indexed in the NRA.  More Information: Discovery: finding archives and their collections

Archive Finder includes the National Inventory of Documentary Sources in the United Kingdom is in some ways analogous to the NRA, although the indexing is more detailed. Collection inventories were sent by numerous repositories to Chadwyck-Healey to be transferred to microfiches and indexed. Includes many archival (e.g., National Archives) collections as well as personal papers. Much less complete for personal papers than the NRA. Some of these inventories may have been made available online. Collection inventories are listed on the first fiche for each repository.

Archives Network Wales offers digitized finding aids.

AIM25 (Archives in the M25 region) searches catalogs and finding aids from over 50 repositories in the Greater London area. For each collection, gives: dates of creation, extent, scope and content note, and list of major associated subjects and personal names. Usually series-level and above, not folder lists.

Archives Hub offers descriptions of collections held in UK colleges and universities. For each collection gives: dates of creation, extent, historical notes, scope and content note, and list of major associated subjects and personal names. No folder lists.

Early Modern Letters Online is a " is a combined finding aid and editorial interface for basic descriptions of early modern correspondence".

Connected Histories: British History Sources, 1500-1900 provides federated searching for several databases of British primary historical sources, including the primary source content of British History Online for 1500-1900. 

Connected Histories is not integrated into the Harvard system. When you find something in a licensed/subscription database only a snippet view will display, and you will need to go to the same resource in the Harvard system (if we have it) and redo the search.

Manuscripts Online (1000 to 1500) searches a variety of online resources on manuscript and early printed culture in Britain. Includes literary manuscripts, historical documents and early printed books on websites of libraries, archives, universities and publishers. Some of the resources searched are only accessible via subscription. These resources allow free snippet results but do not provide full access.
Project blog.

Manuscripts Online is not integrated into the Harvard system. When you find something in a licensed/subscription database only a snippet view will display, and you will need to go to the same resource in the Harvard system (if we have it) and redo the search.

Connected Histories and Manuscripts Online are not integrated into the Harvard system. When you find something in a licensed/subscription database only a snippet view will display, and you will need to go to the same resource in the Harvard system (if we have it) and redo the search.

Cornucopia: Discovering UK Collections contains information on over 6,000 collections in museums, galleries, archives and libraries.

Scottish Archive Network includes online catalog of the holdings of 52 Scottish repositories.

Many British and Irish collections, especially of literary papers, are now in American repositories, so it is worth checking U. S. sources.

Manuscript sources for British history: their nature, location and use, by R. J. Olney. IHR guides, no. 3. London: University of London, Institute of Historical Research, 1995.
LOCATION: Widener: RR 3701.25
--Useful, though dated, overview
--Contains lists of subject guides.

The Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, starting in 1870, produced descriptions and calendars (lists of individual items with brief summaries) of numerous collections in private hands. These indexes include many persons not included in the NRA index. These reports covered pre-nineteenth century material. Up to 1884 (report 1-9) they were published as appendices to the Reports, after 1884 separately

Report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. 1st- London: [H.M.S.O.], 1870- .
LOCATION: Law School: UK 905.01 HIS (1-25)
LOCATION: Microforms (Lamont): Microtext Room Microcard edition
LOCATION: Widener: Br 78.5 [Kraus reprint]
--First to ninth reports (1870-1884) have appendices giving brief reports on unpublished manuscripts in private collections.

The Kraus reprint of Reports 1-9 is accompanied by a Supplement volume that updates the original with corrigenda, current locations of collections and individual mss, and other material. These are indicated in the margins of the reprinted volumes.  The Forward to the Supplement offers a valuable explanation od the circumstances of creation of the Reports.

Bibliography of Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts publications.

Reports are indexed in:

A guide to the reports on collections of manuscripts of private families, corporations and institutions in Great Britain and Ireland. [For Reports issued 1870-1911] (Pt. 1. Topographical, pt. 2. Index of persons.)
HOLLIS Record and HOLLIS Record
Online Version of Part I

Guide to the reports of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, 1911-1957 (Pt. 1. Index of places, pt. 2. Index of persons: v. 1. A -Foullon, v. 2. Foullwyll-Orme, v. 3. Ormesby-Z).
HOLLIS Record


Many of the collections in the HMC Reports have been moved from private residences to record offices, etc., and may be found in:

Guide to the location of collections described in the Reports and Calendars series, 1870-1980. (Guides to sources for British history, 3) Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. London : H.M.S.O., 1982, 69 p.
Widener  |  RR 627.317 vol. 3 000694239

Principal family and estate collections. . (Guides to sources for British history ; 10-11) Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. London H.M.S.O., 1996-1999. 2 v.
Widener  |  RR 627.317 vol. 10-11 006656798

Subject Guides

The British National Archives receives reports of new accessions to archives all over the UK and sorts them by subject.

Guide to British Archives (Columbia)

Manuscript sources for British history: their nature, location and use, by R.J. Olney. London: University of London, Institute of Historical Research, 1995, 72 p.
HOLLIS Record 
Online Version
--Includes bibliography of subject guides arranged by subject.

Victoria Research Web: Archival Sources

Surveys of historical manuscripts in the United Kingdom: a select bibliography. Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. 2nd ed. London: H.M.S.O., 1994.
LOCATION: Widener: Atkins Reference Room: Archives folder in file drawer

Guides to sources for British history / Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. London : H.M.S.O., 1982-2003.
vol. 1 Papers of British Cabinet Ministers, 1782-1900
vol. 2 The manuscript papers of British scientists 1600-1940
vol. 3 Guide to the location of collections described in the Reports and Calendars series, 1870-1980
vol. 4 Private papers of British diplomats, 1782-1900
vol. 5 Private papers of British colonial governors 1782-1900
vol. 6 Papers of British churchmen, 1780-1940
vol. 7 Papers of British politicians 1782-1900
vol. 8 Records of British business and industry, 1760-1914 : textiles and leather
vol. 9 Records of British business and industry, 1760-1914 : metal processing and engineering
vol. 10-11 Principal family and estate collections
vol. 12 Papers of British antiquaries and historians

Agriculture and HorticultureArtsBusiness | Economics | Education | Government and Foreign PolicyLabour | Literature/Journalism | Medicine | ReligionScience | Sport

Agriculture and Horticulture

Garden history records held by other archives (National Archives Research Guide)

Arts

Artists' Papers Register offers brief data with locations on UK collections of papers of artists, designers and craftspeople

Art and artists’ records held by other archives (National Archives Research Guide)

Cecilia A project mapping the music resources of the UK and Ireland.

UK Theatre Collections database contains descriptions of collections in Association of Performing Arts Collections (APAC) and other institutions.

Business and Industry

Business History (National Archives Research Guides; Includes finding archives outside of the National Archives)

Researching Business History (Business Archives Council)

Directory of corporate archives : a guide to British businesses which maintain archive facilities, by Lesley Richmond and Alison Turton. 4th ed. London: Business Archives Council, 1997, 114 p.
Baker Business | Historical Collections -- Reference | CD1043.3 .R53 1997
Widener | Harvard Depository | HF5155 .R53 1997
HOLLIS Record

The pharmaceutical industry: a guide to historical records, ed. by Lesley Richmond, Julie Stevenson, and Alison Turton. Aldershot, Hants; Burlington, VT : Ashgate, 2003, 561 p.
Widener | WID-LC | HD9667.5 .P465 2003x
HOLLIS Record

British banking: a guide to historical records, by John Orbell and Alison Turton. New ed. Aldershot; Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2001, 663 p.
Baker Business | Historical Collections -- Reference | HG2988 .O734 2001
Widener | WID-LC | HG2988.Z99 O73 2001x
HOLLIS Record

Chartered accountants in England and Wales: a guide to historical records, ed. by Wendy Habgood. Manchester ; NY: Manchester University Press, 1994, 241 p.
Baker Business | Historical Collections -- Reference | HF5616.G72 E543 1994

The Shipbuilding industry: a guide to historical records, ed. by L.A. Ritchie. Manchester; New York : Manchester University Press, 1992, 206 p.
Widener | WID-LC | VM299.7.G7 Z997 1992x
HOLLIS Record

The Brewing industry: a guide to historical records, ed. by Lesley Richmond and Alison Turton. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990, 485 p.
Baker Business | Historical Collections -- Reference | Z7914.B6 B73 1990
Widener | WID-LC | HD9397.G69 Z993 1990x
HOLLIS Record

Economics

Economists' Papers: a Guide to Archive and Other Manuscript Sources for the History of British and Irish Economic Thought, 1750-2000

Education

 

Government and Foreign Policy

Britain and Palestine, 1914-1948: archival sources for the history of the British Mandate,  by Philip Jones. Oxford : Oxford University Press for the British Academy, 1979, 246 p.
HOLLIS Record
--Personal papers section (pp. 1-141 ) includes brief account of service and positions held for each person.  Organizations and Sociieties section (pp. 142-168) Includes brief organizations histories)

British foreign policy, 1918-1945: a guide to research and research materials, by Sidney Aster. Rev. ed. Wilmington, Del.: Scholarly Resources, 1991.
LOCATION: Widener: WID-LC DA578.Z99 A87 1991x

The Routledge guide to British political archives: sources since 1945, ed. by Chris Cook. London ; NY: Routledge, 2006, 473 p.
Widener | RR 627.20

Labour

Labour history records held by other archives (National Archives Research Guide)

Literature

Location register of English literary manuscripts and letters, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. London: British Library, 1995.
LOCATION: Houghton: Reading Room HRR 37.2.5 F
LOCATION: Widener: RR 625.26.5 F Library has: 2 v.

This has been loaded into WorldCat but all location information was removed.  Thus you can check in WorldCat to see if an author's MSS are in the Location Register, but you must look at the print book to find the locations.  Search in WorldCat: Author name AND (owned OR deposit).  Do NOT limit to Archival Material.  Sometimes with common names you will retrieve some irrelevant items.

Location register of twentieth-century English literary manuscripts and letters: a union list of papers of modern English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh authors in the British Isles.
--The 20th century Location Register includes living authors. The Univ. of Reading version includes a supplement which covers new accessions to British and Irish repositories from 1988 to 2003. Online version omits the headnotes which give general remarks on an author's manuscripts and note collections in foreign repositories. Print Version:

Location register of twentieth-century English literary manuscripts and letters: a union list of papers of modern English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh authors in the British Isles. London : British Library, 1988. 2 v.
Houghton  |  Reading Room f    |  Z2013.E6 L7 1988
Widener  |  RR625.26.10 F 001360116

Index of English literary manuscripts,  ed. by  P.J. Croft et al. London : Mansell ; New York : Bowker, 1980-1997. 4 v. in 10
Location : Houghton Reading Room f PR83 .I7 1980
Location : Widener RR 625.26 000103811
-- v. 1. 1450-1625 part 1. Andrewes-Donne; part 2. Douglas-Wyatt
-- v. 2. 1625-1700 part 1. Behn-King; part 2. Lee-Wycherley
-- v. 3. 1700-1800 part 1. Addison-Fielding; part 2. Gay-Philips; part 3. Pope-Steele; part 4. Sterne-Young
-- v. 4. 1800-1900 part 1. Arnold-Gissing; part 2. Hardy-Lamb; part 3. Landor-Patmore
Covers major authors.  The preliminary essay for each author lists other author-related sources.  Each vol. has postscript with addenda.

Replaced for 16th/17th century authors by:
Catalogue of English Literary Manuscripts 1450–1700 which covers literary manuscripts by 237 British authors.

Medicine

Hospitals (National Archives Research Guide; Includes finding archives outside of the National Archives)

Religion

Religious Archives Directory

MUNDUS Gateway to Missionary Collections in the UK contains records for over 400 collections in over 50 repositories in the U.K.

Science

Archives of British Men of Science, ed. by R. M. MacLeod & J. R. Friday. London: Mansell, 1972, 40 pp. + microfiche 1-58. MacLeod, R. M. 1973. Also: Supplement to the First Edition. Brighton: University of Sussex, 1 printed sheet: "Index to supplementary fiche" + microfiche 59-64.
HOLLIS Record
--Locates papers of around 3400 British scientists active from 1870 to 1950. England and Wales are more thoroughly covered than Scotland and Ireland. Includes list of scientists for whom collections were not found.

The Manuscript Papers of British Scientists, 1600-1940. (Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts Guides to Sources for British History, 2) London: HM Stationary Office, 1982, 109 pp.
HOLLIS Record
--Gives locations for the papers of 635 prominent scientists (technologists applying new principles are included) selected by the Royal Society of London.

Sport

Index to sporting manuscripts in the UK, by Richard William Cox. Frodsham : British Society of Sport History in association with Sports History Publishing, 1995. xiv, 129 p.
Widener | Harvard Depository 005595460

Major repositories

In England, and to a lesser extent in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, collections are widely scattered. In Wales there is a very strong concentration in the National Library of Wales, and in Northern Ireland in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. The National Library of Ireland is the major Irish repository.

British Library Manuscript Collections. The prominence of the British Library for more than two centuries has resulted in the deposit or purchase of numerous sets of important papers. Several research guides are available. Manuscripts Catalogue Online

Cambridge University

Department of Manuscripts and University Archives, Cambridge University Library

Janus provides access to catalogues of archives and manuscript collections held throughout Cambridge

Cambridge University Library : the great collections, ed. by Peter Fox. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998, 231 p.
LOCATION: Widener | WID-LC | Z792.C18 C36 1998

Munby, A. N. L. Cambridge college libraries; aids for research students. 2d ed., rev. and enl. Cambridge: W. Heffer, 1962.
LOCATION: Widener: Harvard Depository B 8683.2.12

Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick Library concentrates on British political, social, and economic history, especially industrial relations and labor history.

National Archives (London), formerly the Public Record Office. Although the National Archives does not collect personal papers, some collections of personal papers are held in connection with its official records; these are largely indexed by the NRA.  Online Catalogue

The National Archives offers numerous research guides

The List & Index Society publishes lists, calendars (item-level short summaries) and guides to National Archives collections. These often usefully supplement the Discovery Catalog. Harvard has many of these but not a complete set. Find them by browsing the in-print Standard Series and Special  Series and the out-of-print lists at the List & Index Society site, or by a search in WorldCat:

 Advanced search: Keywords: “List & Index Society”
AND
Keywords: Your topic

Any volumes that Harvard does not have can be obtained via Borrow Direct or Interlibrary Loan.  HOLLIS has most of the more recent volumes.

National Library of Scotland

National Library of Wales

Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts, Bodleian Library

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

Scottish Record Office unlike the National Archives (London), collects personal papers. As local Scottish record offices are created, however, the Scottish Record Office relinquishes possession to appropriate local repositories.

University of Edinburgh Library

Published Manuscript and Calendars

Printed historical documents published by the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, record societies, and other organizations are listed in:

Texts and calendars: an analytical guide to serial publications, by E. L. C. Mullins. Royal Historical Society guides and handbooks; no. 7, 1958.
HOLLIS Record

Texts and calendars II: an analytical guide to serial publications, 1957-1982, by E. L. C. Mullins. Royal Historical Society guides and handbooks; no. 12.
HOLLIS Record

Scottish texts and calendars : an analytical guide to serial publications,  by David and Wendy B. Stevenson. London : Royal Historical Society, 1987, 233 p.
HOLLIS Record

The Texts and Calendars series are updated in National & Regional History. (Royal Historical Society) [links to lists of national, regional and local record society publications: these incorporate and update the material in the Texts and Calendars lists published by Mullins and the Stevensons]

Further Information

Guide to European and UK Libraries, Archives and Research Centers: Guide to British Archives (Columbia)

Institute of Historical Research, London

Victoria Research Web: Archival Sources

British archives: a guide to archive resources in the United Kingdom, by Janet Foster and Julia Sheppard. 4th ed. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York : Palgave, 2002.
LOCATION: Widener: RR 627.315
--Lists major collections under each repository. Fully indexed.

A guide to the research collections of member libraries, by O. S. Pickering. Leeds: CURL, 1996, 82 pp.
LOCATION: Widener: WID-LC Z1002.P53 1996x
--Overview of major manuscript collections of the Consortium of Research Libraries in the British Isles arranged by subject.