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Primary sources

Historical government documents

These resources are historical primary sources of publications from UK and US governments. For current publications see the Government documents and official publications resource guide.

Cecil Papers

The Hatfield House Archives is a collection of almost 30,000 documents gathered by William Cecil (1520–1598), Lord Burghley and his son Robert Cecil (1563–1612), first Earl of Salisbury. The elder Cecil was one of Elizabeth I’s closest advisers. The collection includes many 16th and 17th century state papers, grants from the Crown, legal documents, treaties, correspondences, and political memoranda. A subscription resource from ProQuest.

China and the Modern World

Sourced from archives across the world, in particular the British Library, the Foreign Office via the UK National Archives and the Second Historical Archives of China, these collections offer monographs, manuscripts, periodicals, correspondence and letters, historical photos and ephemera covering a 180-year period of Chinese history, from the later period of the Qing dynasty to the radical political and societal changes from which has emerged the China of today.

Imperial China and the West, part 1, 1815–1881

Imperial China and the West, part 2, 1865–1905

Hong Kong, Britain and China, 1841–1951

A subscription resource from GALE.

Colonial Law in Africa, 1808–1919

Originally known as the “Government Gazettes” each item contains the colonial laws for the year in which they were published. Coverage includes the Napoleonic Wars, the Boer War and the First World War. A subscription resource from British Online Archives.

Colonial State Papers, 1574–1757

This resource offers over 7,000 manuscript papers and 40,000 bibliographic records concerning English activities in the American, Canadian, and West Indian colonies between the 16th and 18th centuries. A subscription resource from ProQuest.

Confidential Print Middle East 1839–1969

Of relevance to social, economic and political research, Confidential Print was a Government series aimed at preserving the most important papers generated by the Foreign and Colonial Offices. An Adam Matthew Digital subscription resource sourced from the UK National Archives.

Digital national security archive

This sizeable archive presents over fifty collections of extra-governmental reporting on, amongst many other topics: US diplomatic relations with other nations as key players in 20th century world events; the US side of the nuclear arms race; the Cold War; intelligence reporting by the CIA to the US President; the Cuban missile crisis; US policy towards Central and South America. Recent additions to the Library’s DNSA portfolio include:

  • Module 53: U.S. nuclear nonproliferation 2, part 1: From atoms for peace to the NPT, 1954–1968
  • Module 54: U.S. policy toward Iran: From the revolution to the nuclear accord, 1978–2015
  • Module 55: The President’s daily brief: Nixon, Ford and the CIA, 1969–1977
  • Modules 56 and 57: Donald Rumsfeld’s Snowflakes, Parts 1 and 2: The Pentagon and US foreign policy, 2001–2006
  • Module 58: CIA covert operations IV, the Eisenhower years 1953–1961

DNSA is a subscription resource from ProQuest

East India Company, module IV (India Office records E)

A digital collection of India Office Records from the British Library. This part of a wider resource covers the earliest days of the East India Company, its first arrivals and establishment in overseas territories and conflicts with indigenous peoples. Includes correspondence between the East India Company, the Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India, the Company’s various settlements, and European houses of agency. Of particular note is the correspondence between the Bombay and Madras Presidencies and British government departments. An Adam Matthew Digital resource.

Foreign Office Files for India Pakistan and Afghanistan 1947–1980

This resource has material covering the post-independence political and social history of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Content ranges from independence and partition, to the India-Pakistan wars. Includes content on Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and Kashmir, and other frontier regions. A subscription resource from Adam Matthew Digital.

Foreign Office files for the Middle East 1971–1981

Drawn from diplomatic correspondence, minutes, reports, political summaries and personality profiles, this resource supports examination of Middle East policies, economies, political relationships, conflicts and significant events in the 1970s and the political figures of that time. Contains complete runs of Foreign Office files for key events. A subscription resource from Adam Matthew Digital.

House of Commons Parliamentary Papers (HCPP) 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries

This resource comprises digitised transcripts of UK Parliamentary debates. A ProQuest subscription resource.

House of Lords Parliamentary Papers, 1800–1910

Available at the same site as House of Commons Parliamentary Papers, where the archives for each house of Parliament can be searched simultaneously or individually using filters in the advanced search feature. A ProQuest subscription resource.

Macmillan Cabinet Papers 1957–1963

Sourced from the National Archives, Macmillan Cabinet Papers provides complete coverage of the Cabinet conclusions (minutes) and memoranda of Harold Macmillan’s government. The documents cover Britain's relationship with the EEC, Anglo-American ties, the Cold War, decolonisation, and issues of public and political morality. A subscription resource from Adam Matthew Digital.

Military intelligence files : land, sea and air, 1938–1974

Intelligence reports from the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force covering the Second World War and the Cold War offering insights into international relations and military history during this time. A British Online Archives resource.

Public Petitions to Parliament, 1833–1918

Petitioning Parliament was one method by which pressure aimed at creating political change and legislative review was brought about by ordinary members of the public. This resource covers many social and political topics such as petitioning for tax reforms to the extension of the voting franchise and supports the “bottom-up” approach to the study of history. A subscription resource from ProQuest.

Secret files from World Wars to Cold War

Secret Files from World Wars to Cold War provides access to British government secret intelligence and foreign policy files from 1873 to 1953. Sourced from The National Archives, these documents – from signals intelligence reports to government-directed policy and strategy – range from the period of Appeasement through to the early Cold War. The content is international in breadth and scope, spanning four key 20th century conflicts, with a spotlight on the Second World War. A Taylor & Francis subscription resource sourced from the National Archives.

State Papers Online, parts 1, 2 & 3

This resource is a collection of digitised United Kingdom state papers from the 16th and 17th centuries. Presented here are Domestic, Foreign, Borders, Scotland, and Ireland State Papers with the Registers of the Privy Council and other State Papers now housed in the Cotton, Harley and Lansdowne collections in the British Library. A subscription resource from GALE.

State Papers Online, part 1

State Papers Online, part 2

State Papers Online, part 3

US Declassified Documents Online

This resource offers previously classified federal records from the 20th and 21st centuries bringing together the most sensitive documents from all the presidential libraries and several US executive agencies. A subscription resource from GALE.

Uganda under Colonial Rule, in Government Reports, 1903–1961

This resource is a collection of annual departmental reports showing how each area of the colonial government of Uganda developed over the first 60 years of the 20th century. A subscription resource from British Online Archives.