Leeds University Library

Using archives for research

Movable Library stack shelves

Our collections and archives include rare books, manuscripts, letters, photographs, registers, recordings and artworks that you can use to enrich your research.

Our material can be analysed and interpreted in various ways. We can help you develop the specific skills needed to understand, decode and question our historic material.

Getting started

Watch our desk capture video on how to get started using our material in your work. These will help you to plan your research, locate primary sources, and use catalogues effectively. You can also download Fix Up, Research Sharp! our beginners guide to archival research from our teaching and learning resources page.

Researcher case studies

Hear from other Special Collections users (both undergraduate and academic) about their experiences of using Special Collections for research.

Researcher skills

Work through our in-depth resources on what to look for and how to understand Special Collections objects.

General guides

The following guides provide useful general introductions to using archives for research:

Search external archives

You can search the holdings of many specialist archives services through online catalogue networks. The following provide useful starting points.

Archives Hub

This provides descriptions of archives held in UK universities and colleges. You can search by keyword to find out which institutions may hold material of interest to you. Archives Hub includes some content from Leeds University Library Special Collections.

Archives Portal Europe

The Portal provides access to information on archival collections across Europe, as well as details of archival institutions and repositories.


This provides descriptions of archives held at 130 archive repositories around the world (although many are in the United States). You can search by keyword to track down material of interest to you.


The National Archives Discovery platform provides access to catalogue records held by the National Archives and more than 2,500 archives across the UK. You can also find contact details for archive repositories, and useful guides on searching by person, place or subject.

European Library

Supported by the European Commission, the European Library website links to national libraries around Europe. For lists of further repositories of archival material in Europe try the Repositories of Primary Sources: Europe website from the University of Idaho, or the Historical Research in Europe guide from the University of Wisconsin.

C19: The Nineteenth Century Index

Although broader than archives in its coverage, The Nineteenth Century Index does allow you to search by keyword for archival collections using the ArchivesUSA┬« directory.