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Primary sources

Archives and archival papers

Archives are collections of documents or “records” that have been selected for permanent preservation because of their value as evidence or as a source for historical or other research. Records are created by the activities of organisations and people; they serve an active purpose whilst in current use and some of them are later selected and preserved as part of an archival collection. (Definition from the National Archives)

Avalon Project

This Yale University Law School project gives free and open access to a full text collection of documents relating to world history. It has a US focus (including relations with other nations) with some non-US documents. Most documents date from 18th century to present, but some pre-18th century documents are included. It also includes a section on 20th century history.

China Trade Politics and Culture 1793–1980

This collection contains material from nine archives at the School of Oriental and African Studies and the British Library and covers events from the earliest English embassy in China to the birth and early years of the People’s Republic. A subscription resource from Adam Matthew Digital.

Colonial Missionaries’ archives

The British Online Archives contain primary material from the United Society Partners in Gospel (USPG) colonial missionaries. The USPG is a UK-based Anglican missionary organisation that operates around the world. During the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries, the USPG went by the name of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts (SPG).

Communisms and the Cold War 1944–1986

This resource contains reports and other records compiled by the Communist Party of Great Britain's International Department between 1944 and 1986. This period begins immediately after the dissolution of the Communist International (Comintern) and ends shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union. A subscription resource from British Online Archives.

Defining Gender 1450–1910

This advice literature from the mid-15th to early 20th century covers social conduct, power distribution within the family, consumption and leisure, ideas surrounding traditional gender roles, education of men and women and gendered perceptions of the body. A subscription resource from Adam Matthew Digital.

East India Company Modules I–III

The India Office Records from the British Library contain royal charters, correspondence, trading diaries, minutes of council meetings and reports of expeditions, among other document types. These chart the history of British trade and rule in the Indian subcontinent and beyond from 1599 to 1947. A subscription resource from Adam Matthew Digital.

Empire Online

Empire Online charts the rise and fall of European empires over five centuries, from European and non-European perspectives, starting with the voyages of Columbus. The material covers ‘empire’ from the British, French, Portuguese, and German viewpoints, as well as those of the indigenous peoples of Africa, India and North America. This resource is useful for research into colonial history, politics, culture and society. A subscription resource from Adam Matthew Digital.

EuroDocs

EuroDocs offers access to a large range of European primary source documents (digitised manuscripts, literary texts, historical documents, newspapers, journals, legal and government documents) which are freely available online. Material can be browsed by country and then period.

First World War: Personal experiences and First World War: Propaganda and recruitment

Documents from national and other archives, including the British Library and Cambridge University Library, highlighting the voices and experiences of men and women who served in the First World War. A subscription resource from Adam Matthew Digital.

History Vault: Civil rights and the Black Freedom Struggle

The History Vault contains digitised letters, papers, photographs, scrapbooks, financial records, diaries, and other primary source materials taken from the University Publications of America (UPA) Collections. It includes records of major civil rights organisations and personal papers of leaders and observers of the 20th century Black Freedom Struggle.

Our subscription includes the following:

  • Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century: Organizational Records and Personal Papers, Part 1 and Part 2
  • The NAACP's Major Campaigns—Education, Voting, Housing, Employment, Armed Forces
  • The NAACP's Major Campaigns—Scottsboro, Anti-Lynching, Criminal Justice, Peonage, Labor, and Segregation and Discrimination Complaints and Responses.

In addition, Black Freedom Struggle in the United States is an open resource containing free to access primary source materials documenting the US abolitionist and Civil Rights movements; the Jim Crow era of race discrimination legislation; African Americans and the US Civil War; contemporary documents and records on race and equality in the US. A free resource from ProQuest.

India, Raj and Empire

These National Library of Scotland manuscript collections document the East India Company from foundation in 1615 to independence for India and Pakistan in 1947. Agriculture and trade, society travel and leisure, and the Raj as British administration in India are amongst the topics covered by the documents in this resource. A subscription resource from Adam Matthew Digital.

Literary Manuscripts: Berg

The Berg Collection's Victorian holdings is a source for the textual analysis of Victorian literature. It includes unpublished poems, working notebooks, holograph manuscripts and drawings. A subscription resource from Adam Matthew Digital.

Literary Manuscripts: Leeds

This collection of digitised literary manuscripts of 17th and 18th century poetry from the Brotherton Library Special Collections includes early modern verse and source materials for both literary scholars and historians. A subscription resource from Adam Matthew Digital.

Making of the Modern World Parts I & II

This resource is sourced from the Goldsmiths'-Kress Library of Economic Literature 1450–1850 and provides digital facsimile images of 61,000 works on economics, business and trade. Covers the history of Western trade, the coal, iron, and steel industries, the railway industry, the cotton industry, banking and finance, and the emergence of the modern corporation. It also covers the rise of the modern labour movement, the evolving status of slavery, the condition and making of the working class, colonisation, the Atlantic world, Latin American and Caribbean studies. A subscription resource from GALE.

Mass Observation Online

Mass Observation Online makes the Mass Observation Archive available in its entirety. Useful for social research this archive presents a record of everyday life in Britan as documented in diaries, surveys, questionnaires and photographs by those living it. Covers the original project, 1937–1950 and newer material collected since 1981. A subscription resource from Adam Matthew Digital.

Medical Services and Warfare Module I

Archives covering medical advances across conflicts, including documents from the Crimean War, the second Boer War, the American Civil War, the First World War and inter- and post-war periods. Of use to medical historians, it includes hospital records, medical reports and first-hand accounts which illustrate how warfare has shaped medical practice. A subscription resource from Adam Matthew Digital.

Nineteenth Century Collections Online

These collections contain large amounts of digitised material from a variety of original formats. Our subscription to GALE covers:

  • British politics and society
  • European literature, 1790–1840: The Corvey Collection
  • British theatre, music, and literature: High and popular culture
  • Asia and the West: Diplomacy and cultural exchange
  • Europe and Africa: Commerce, Christianity, civilisation, and conquest.

Popular Medicine in America 1800–1900

This resource highlights American popular medicine as represented by advertisements and popular texts. It offers visual primary source material, together with supplementary features designed to aid research and teaching. A subscription resource from Adam Matthew Digital.

Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674–1913

A fully searchable body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people relating to 197,745 criminal trials held at London’s central criminal court. A subscription resource from Adam Matthew Digital.

Prosecuting the Holocaust

Drawn from the National Archives (UK) and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum this collection contains information regarding the British government’s efforts to investigate and prosecute Nazi crimes during the period 1944–1949. A subscription resource from British Online Archives.

Queen Victoria’s Journals

An open resource of searchable scans of the original journal pages alongside a transcript.

Romanticism: Life Literature and Landscape

A collection of the working notebooks, verse manuscripts and correspondence of William Wordsworth and his fellow writers, digitised in full colour. Includes the annotated full manuscripts of Wordsworth’s The Prelude and Michael, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Dejection: An Ode. A subscription resource from Adam Matthew Digital.

Royal College of Physicians Archive

This archive contains an eclectic range of 14th to 19th century medical manuscripts. Personal papers of past fellows from the 16th to the 20th century provide glimpses into the personal lives and social concerns of many distinguished physicians. A subscription resource from Wiley.

Women and Social Movements in the United States, 1600–2000

An extensive collection of primary sources for US women’s history including 130 document projects and document archives that present and interpret primary source documents. A subscription resource from Alexander Street.