Current Guide to the Contents of the Public Record Office

The National Archives is a government department which brings together the Public Record Office, Historical Manuscripts Commission, the Office of Public Sector Information and Her Majesty's Stationery Office. In particular, the Public Record Office has been the repository of historic records of the government. The files are available in paper, in microformat, or digitally.

To determine how the records of the Public Record Office are organized and what classes exist, there is one source which takes many forms with slight variation on the title. The Catalogue (formerly PROCAT) at the National Archives site provides listings of records of the UK government from the Domesday to the present. You can limit your search to documents that can be downloaded for free.

Earlier Guides to the Contents of the Public Record Office

Title and Description Location
Guide to the contents of the Public Record Office.
Organized by classes with information on the coverage of each class. It includes a subject index.
Br Doc 40.5

Current Guide.
The first addendum to the Guide, organized by class, then by class number, which provides information on the contents of that class.

Br Doc 40.5.2
Volumes published by the List and Index Society.The second addendum is organized by class number. It records the volume number of an index published by the List and Index Society, if such an index exists. Br Doc 40.5.4 F

Kew List and Supplement are the microfiche versions of the guides noted above providing all of the information found in the original hard copy edition and its addenda. Using the Kew List, one is able to determine which volumes may be of interest. It consists of four parts

  • A history of each class
  • Contents of each class, organized by class number
  • A subject index
  • The Kew List--listing by volume the contents of each class.

Microfiche W 3661
Microfiche W 3661.1


Harvard's Holdings

Search in HOLLIS under keyword  “Great Britain. Public Record Office", then modifying the search by file number, if known, or by the office responsible, e.g. Foreign Office. Many, but not all, files held at Harvard are classified under the call number Film S 830, the single call number for the microfilm of Public Record Office produced by the PRO.  However, commercially published PRO film receive other unique call numbers, usually Film A's. e.g. Film A 1107, Film A 1068, etc.. More recently some of the PRO papers are also being made available digitally and may be found by searching in the same way, but modifying your search by format to find only digital material. Alternatively, you may search directly in the Digital Resources selection within the HOLLIS One example of such a digital file links directly from the catalog to the E-Resource Macmillan Cabinet Papers, 1957-1963.


Index to the Correspondence of the Foreign Office
Location: Documents (Lamont) Br Doc 30.5
is a detailed index to the Foreign Office class Political (FO 371) starting in 1920. This includes both subject and personal name indices and refers one to a very specific document. It is, in fact, the working index used by the Foreign Office. Each year consists of 4 volumes.

Indexes to the 'Green' or Secret Papers among the General Correspondence of the Foreign Office
Location: Documents (Lamont) Br Doc 30.6
is an index for the “Secret Green Papers” which are also part of the class FO 371.

Indexing System of the PRO (the Blue Notebook)
Location: Documents (Lamont) Kept in the Data and Government Research Services unit at Lamont. Contact for access. 

Government Documents/Microforms staff has compiled this notebook detailing the complete indexing system of the PRO. It presents the indexes noting what classes each covers and states its call number.

PROfiles 1964 on CD-ROM
Location Documents (Lamont) CD-ROM Doc DA 566.7.P76 199x
Indexes various PRO files released in 1964, with facsimile copies of selected documents. Files include:

Cabinet (CAB 128, 129, 130, 133)
Prime Minister’s Office (PREM 11, 13)
Foreign Office (FO 370 and 371)
Budget papers (T 171)
Defense memoranda (DEFE 4, 5, 6)


State Papers (a Historical Note)

There is no record of an officially constituted State Paper Office before the early 17th Century. A clear division was made in the business of the two principal Secretaries of State by the establishment of the Home Office and the Foreign Departments [HO & FO] only in 1782. Prior to that date papers are part of the State Paper Office. Papers in the State Paper Office of the division known as “Colonial” are now part of the Colonial Office Papers [CO]. Papers relating to Scotland and Ireland have always been kept separately.