Guide to European and UK Libraries, Archives and Research Centers: Using Secondary Sources...

Use the Bibliography in a Scholarly Book to Identify Some of the Key Collections of Manuscript and Archival Sources

Typically, a good scholarly book on a historical topic will end with a bibliography. If the author made use of archival and manuscript collections in his or her research, those collections will usually be singled out at the start of the bibliography under a heading such as "Manuscript and Archival Sources" or "Primary Sources." Note that the full name of a source collection, along with its location, will be listed the first time that it is cited only. In the bibliography shown below, an example of this would be: "Oriental and Indian Office Collections (British Library)." Subsequent references to that collection will identify it only by an acronym or abbreviation, but are likely to add further details specifying where in the collection specific documents can be found. An example in the bibliography below of such a subsequent citation would be "Pamphlets [OIOC P/T/314]."


Use the Footnotes or Endnotes in a Scholarly Journal to Find Archival Materials

Scholarly journal articles will also include thorough references to archival and manuscript collections used by the author. Depending on the citation style, archival and manuscript collections will be referenced either in footnotes/endnotes (usually first identified by the full title and then by an acronym or abbreviation as in the example below: Public Record Office (hereafter PRO) FO 370/3748, L3748/405, Annex B, pp.15-16) or in the bibliography.

Here is the complete citation for the below example article (if you are interested...)

S.P. MacKenzie, "The Treatment of Prisoners of War in World War II," The Journal of Modern History, 66, no. 3 (1994): 487-520, accessed February 25, 2015,

Use the Sources List at the End of a National Biography Entry

At the end of entries in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (which covers Great Britain and Commonwealth), you will find a listing of some of the key archival collections for the individual whose life has just been described. For example, at the end of the entry for Churchill, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer (1874–1965), prime minister, you will find:

Each abbreviated Archives name is hyperlinked to a full version of name. For example:
CAC Cam. =  Churchill College, Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge

For American individuals, major archival collections are listed at the end of each entry in American national biography online .