British History: Historical Text Collections



  • AM Explorer Icon (Adam Matthew)
    Allows users to search across more than sixty-five unique primary-source collections reproduced from archives and special libraries around the world. British and American collections are especially well represented. Key thematic areas covered include: Area Studies; Cultural Studies; Empire and Globalism; Ethnic Studies; Gender and Sexuality; History; Politics; Literature; Theatre; and War and Conflict. Time periods covered span Medieval and Early Modern to 20th and 21st Century.
  • Archives Direct : Sources from The National Archives, UK  Icon  (Adam Matthew)
    Archives Direct is a distinct subset of the collections included in AM Explorer (listed directly above). Archives Direct collections are sourced from The National Archives, Kew, the official archive of the United Kingdom. Includes Confidential Print series for Africa, Latin America, Middle East, and North America; and Foreign Office Files for China; Japan; Middle East; South Asia; and South East Asia.
  • British Online Archives (BOA) | Digital Micro Media (DMM)
  • Gale Primary Sources Icon (Gale)

    Allows you to search across more than thirty databases providing access to primary sources from and/or relating to America, Britain, and the world in general. Documents date from the sixteenth through the early 21st century. Substantial amounts of the content consist of documents and/or publications that are British or Irish in origin. Includes: Archives of Sexuality and Gender; Archives Unbound; British Library Newspapers; Eighteenth Century Collections Online; The Making of Modern Law; The Making of the Modern World; Nineteenth Century Collections Online; Nineteenth Century UK Periodicals; and many more.




Resources marked with this symbol Icon are restricted to Columbia affiliates.

  • Archives of Sexuality and Gender  Icon  (Gale)
    "Provides a robust and significant collection of primary sources for the historical study of sex, sexuality, and gender. With material dating back to the sixteenth century, researchers and scholars can examine how sexual norms have changed over time, health and hygiene, the development of sex education, the rise of sexology, changing gender roles, social movements and activism, erotica, and many other interesting topical areas. This growing archival program offers rich research opportunities across a wide span of human history." Parts I and II of this growing database focus on LGBTQ History and Culture since 1940, which is documented "with material drawn from hundreds of institutions and organizations, including both major international activist organizations and local, grassroots groups." Part III is concerned more broadly with Sex and Sexuality, Sixteenth to Twentieth Century

  • Archives Unbound  Icon (Gale)
    A cross searchable series of more than forty "topically-focused digital collections of historical documents." Includes collections of British documents on: Afghanistan in 1919: The Third Anglo-Afghan War; Conditions & Politics in Occupied Western Europe, 1940-1945; Indian Army and Colonial Warfare on the Frontiers of India, 1914-1920; and Middle East Online: Arab-Israeli Relations, 1917-1970.

  • British and Irish Women's Letters and Diaries Icon
    "Includes approximately 100,000 pages of published letters and diaries from individuals writing from 1500 to 1900, including several thousand pages of previously unpublished materials. Drawn from 290 sources, including journal articles, pamphlets, newsletters, monographs, and conference proceedings, much of the material is in copyright. Represented are all age groups and life stages, all ethnicities, many geographical regions, the famous and the not so famous."
  • British History Online    [Premium Content Version] Icon
    British History Online is a digital library containing some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles. Created by the Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust.
  • Chatham House Online Archive Icon   (Gale Cengage Learning)
    Contains the publications and archives of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House), the world-leading independent international affairs policy institute founded in 1920 following the Paris Peace Conference. The Institute's analysis and research, as well as debates and speeches it has hosted, can be found in this online archive, subject-indexed and fully searchable.
  • Church Missionary Society Periodicals  Icon (Adam Matthew)
    "From its roots as an Anglican evangelical movement driven by lay persons, this resource encompasses publications from the CMS and the latterly integrated South American Missionary Society. Documenting missionary work from the 19th to the 21st century, the periodicals include news, journals and reports offering a unique perspective on global history and cultural encounter."
  • Churchill Archive  Icon (Bloomsbury)
    "A massive resource that brings together online nearly a million documents amassed by Winston Churchill through out his lifetime, including hand-written notes and private letters. It will also offer an expanding range of additional materials - pedagogical resources and secondary materials, video and audio content, and more. Published in October 2012 by Bloomsbury Publishing in collaboration with the Churchill Archives Centre. . . . "
  • Colonial Africa in Official Statistics, 1821-1953  Icon  (Microform Academic Publishers)
    "The Blue Book was a key item of considerable standing in 19th century colonial administration, Colonial Regulations of the time state that: 'The Annual Blue Book containing accounts of the Civil Establishment, of the Colonial Revenue and Expenditure and of various statistical particulars etc. must be completed as early as possible after the close of each year. The various returns which it comprises must be filled up with the greatest possible accuracy and the Statistical Tables must be full and complete, . . . '"
  • Colonial America Icon (Adam Matthew)
    Makes available all 1,450 volumes of the [Colonial Office] CO 5 series from The National Archives, UK, covering the period 1606 to 1822. CO 5 consists of the original correspondence between the British government and the governments of the American colonies, making it a uniquely rich resource for all historians of the period.
  • Defining gender, 1450-1910 Icon (Adam Matthew)
    "Ephemera, pamphlets, college records and exam papers, commonplace books, diaries, periodicals, letters, ledgers, account books, educational practice and pedagogy, government papers from the Home Office and Metropolitan police, illustrated writings on anatomy, midwifery, art and fashion, manuscript journals, poetry, novels, ballads, drama, receipt books, literary manuscripts, travel writing, and conduct and advice literature."
  • Documents on British Policy Overseas  Icon (ProQuest)
    "...a fully searchable collection of primary source documents from Britain's Foreign and Commonwealth Office, shedding light on diplomatic history throughout the twentieth century. It is based on three distinct print series which form a record of British peacetime diplomacy since the end of the nineteenth century: British Documents on the Origins of the War 1898-1914, Documents on British Foreign Policy 1918-1939 and Documents on British Policy Overseas. Documents are selected and edited by the official historians of the FCO, with many documents specifically declassified for inclusion."
  • Early English Books Online (EEBO)  Icon (ProQuest)
    Now contains page images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America, as well as works in English printed elsewhere between 1473 and 1700. Includes: Early English Books I, 1473-1640 (STC I, Pollard & Redgrave); Early English Books II, 1641-1700 (STC II, Wing); Thomason Tracts; and Early English Books Tract Supplement. Full-text transcriptions for a large selection of EEBO works were created by the Text Creation Partnership (TCP) initiative. Users of EEBO may move seamlessly between those text transcriptions and the corresponding original page images.
  • East India Company  Icon  (Adam Matthew Digital)
    "East India Company offers access to a unique collection of India Office Records from the British Library, London. Containing royal charters, correspondence, trading diaries, minutes of council meetings and reports of expeditions, among other document types, this resource charts the history of British trade and rule in the Indian subcontinent and beyond from 1600 to 1947." 
  • Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) Icon (Gale)
    This collection of full-text and full-page-image online facsimiles aims to provide access to "every significant English-language and foreign-language title printed in the United Kingdom" during the period 1701 to 1800. "Thousands of important works from the Americas" are also included. Many types of printed publications are reproduced here:  "books, pamphlets, essays, broadsides and more." In this database you are searching simultaneously the original ECCO Part I, plus the supplement ECCO Part II.
  • Empire Online Icon (Adam Matthew)
    "This resource brings together manuscript, printed and visual primary source materials for the study of 'Empire' and its theories, practices and consequences. The materials span across the last five centuries and are accompanied by a host of secondary learning resources including scholarly essays, maps and an interactive chronology."
  • The First World War Icon (Adam Matthew)
    "The First World War portal presents rich and varied primary source documents on the personal experiences of men and women, recruitment, and the development and dissemination of various forms of propaganda." 
  • Food and Drink in History (Adam Matthew Digital)
    "Explore a wide range of primary source material, including printed and manuscript cookbooks, advertising ephemera, government reports, films, and illustrated content revealing the evolution of food and drink within everyday life and the public sphere. The unique material in this collection has been sourced from across the globe to reflect a wide range of food cultures and traditions, creating an unparalleled resource for research."
  • Frontier life : borderlands, settlement & colonial encounters  Icon   (Adam Matthew Digital)
    "This digital collection of primary source documents helps us to understand existence on the edges of the anglophone world from 1650-1920. Discover the various European and colonial frontier regions of North America, Africa and Australasia through documents that reveal the lives of settlers and indigenous peoples in these areas." 
  • Global Commodities : Trade, Exploration & Cultural Exchange  Icon (Adam Matthew Digital)
    Provides a vast range of visual, manuscript and printed materials sourced from over twenty key libraries and more than a dozen companies and trade organisations around the world. These original sources will help scholars to explore the history of fifteen major commodities and to examine the ways that these have changed the world.
  • Hathi Trust
    ​"HathiTrust is a not-for-profit collaborative of academic and research libraries preserving 17+ million digitized items. HathiTrust offers reading access to the fullest extent allowable by U.S. copyright law, computational access to the entire corpus for scholarly research, and other emerging services based on the combined collection."
  • India, Raj & Empire Icon (Adam Matthew Digital)
    Drawing upon the manuscript collections of the National Library of Scotland, this searchable online resource provides access to digital facsimiles of diaries and journals, official and private papers, letters, sketches, paintings and original Indian documents containing histories and literary works. The collection documents the relationship between Britain and India in an empire where the Scots played a central role as traders, generals, missionaries, viceroys, governor-generals and East India Company officials. The dates of the documents range from 1710 to 1937.
  • The John Johnson Collection : An Archive of Printed Ephemera  Icon (Bodleian Library,University of Oxford / ProQuest)
    "...Provides access to thousands of items selected from the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, offering unique insights into the changing nature of everyday life in Britain in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Categories include Nineteenth-Century Entertainment, the Booktrade, Popular Prints, Crimes, Murders and
    Executions, and Advertising."
  • Legacies of British Slave-ownership (University College London)
  • Literature Online: The Home of English and American Literature on the World Wide Web (LION) Icon (ProQuest)
    A fully searchable library of more than 350,000 works of English and American poetry, drama, and prose.
  • London low life : street culture, social reform and the Victorian underworld. Icon (Adam Matthew Digital)
    Full-text searchable resource, containing colour digital images of rare books, ephemera, maps and other materials relating to 19th and early 20th century London; designed for both teaching and study, from undergraduate to research students and beyond. Will be of interest to students and scholars from a wide range of disciplines, including literature, cultural studies, urban studies, social history and the study of leisure and tourism. There is a strong emphasis on rare or unique material, particularly in the range of ephemera and street literature available.There is also an emphasis on visual material. The documents are drawn from the holdings of the Lilly Library, the rare books, manuscripts, and special collections library of the Indiana University Libraries, Bloomington.
  • The Making of Modern Law : Legal Treatises 1800-1926 Icon (Gale)
    Derived from two essential reference collections for historical legal studies, the Nineteenth Century and Twentieth Century Legal Treatises microfilm collections, The Making of Modern Law features a fully searchable database of more than 21,000 Anglo-American legal works including casebooks, local practice manuals, form books, works for lay readers, pamphlets, letters, speeches and more.
  • The Making of the Modern WorldIcon (Gale)
    Full texts from major specialized collections documenting "the dynamics of Western trade and wealth . . . from the last half of the fifteenth century" up to 1945. Provides a wide range of resources for research into the the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain, "the railway industry, the cotton industry, banking and finance, and the emergence of the modern corporation. It is also strong in the rise of the modern labor movement, the evolving status of slavery, the condition and making of the working class, colonization, the Atlantic world, Latin American/Caribbean studies, social history, gender, and the economic theories that championed and challenged capitalism in the nineteenth century. In addition, The Making of the Modern World offers deep resources in the role of finance and taxation and the growth of the early modern monarchy."
    ►May be cross-searched with other databases covering similar time periods in Gale Primary Sources.
  • Mass Observation Online: British Social History, 1937-1972 Icon
    (Adam Matthew Digital)
    Provides integrated access to approximately 115,000 digital images of social observation materials from the Mass Observation Archive (MOA). In addition, it functions as a finding aid for all MOA material held on Adam Matthew Publications microfilm, and in the MOA itself. The Archive holds all the material generated by Mass Observation (MO) between 1937 and 1949, with a few later additions from the 1950s and 1960s. The materials fall into three main categories: file reports and publications; materials collected by investigators; and materials submitted by volunteers.
  • Mass Observation Project, 1981-2009.  Icon (Adam Matthew)
    The Mass Observation Project was launched in 1981 by the University of Sussex as a rebirth of the original 1937 Mass Observation, its founders' aim was to document the social history of Britain by recruiting volunteers to write about their lives and opinions. Still growing, it is one of the most important sources available for qualitative social data in the UK. This collection consists of the directives (questionnaires) sent out by Mass Observation in the 1980s and the thousands of responses to them from the hundreds of Mass Observers. The directives and responses from the 1990s and 2000s will follow in 2021 and 2022.
  • Medieval and Early Modern Sources Online Icon
    A collection of digitized editions of texts concerning economic, political, legal, and ecclesiastical history, such as treasury accounts, chronicles, papal registers, etc. Most are from England, Ireland, and Scotland, although some are from Milan and the New World.
  • Migration to new worlds  Icon  (Adam Matthew Digital)
    "Migration to New Worlds explores the movement of peoples from Great Britain, Ireland, mainland Europe and Asia to the New World and Australasia." Includes "collections from 26 archives, libraries and museums, Migration to New Worlds brings together the movement and memories of millions across two centuries of mass migration."
  • Nineteenth Century collections online  Icon (Gale)
    Provides access to twelve thematically based primary-source collections of materials from the long nineteenth century. Collections include: Asia and the WestBritish Politics and SocietyBritish Theatre, Music, and Literature; Europe and AfricaChildren's Literature and Childhood; Science, Technology, and Medicine: 1780-1925 (Parts I & II); Women: Transnational Networks and many more. "The content is sourced from the world's preeminent libraries and archives. It consists of monographs, newspapers, pamphlets, manuscripts, ephemera, maps, photographs, statistics, and other kinds of documents in both Western and non-Western languages."
  • Nineteenth century literary society : the John Murray publishing archive. Icon (Adam Matthew)
    "Nineteenth Century Literary Society makes available more than 1,400 items from the archive of the historic John Murray publishing company....Held by the National Library of Scotland since 2006 and added to the UNESCO Register of World Memory in 2011, the Murray collection comprises one of the world's most important literary archives. Primary source materials span the entirety of the long nineteenth century and document the golden era of the House of Murray from its inception in 1768. Records digitised in this resource predominantly focus on the tenure of John Murray II and his son, John Murray III, as they rose to prominence in the publishing trade, launching long-running series including the political periodical Quarterly Review, and publishing genre-defining titles such as Darwin's On the Origin of Species, Austen's Emma and Livingstone's Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa. The John Murray Archive houses the most complete archival collection of the famed poet, Lord Byron; his manuscripts and personal papers are a particular highlight of Nineteenth Century Literary Society, charting both literary triumph and personal scandal"--Nature and Scope.
  • Open and Free Access Materials for Research (Institute of Historical Research, School of Advanced Study University of London)
    Curated links to open access online research resources that can be used for advanced research in many fields of history. Organised by historical period.
  • Past Masters Icon (InteLex)
    Provides fully searchable authoritative editions of philosophical, literary, scientific, personal, political, and theological writings by a wide range of British, American, and continental authors. Included among the British and American texts are: collected editions of the letters of Thomas Becket, Thomas Hobbes, Jane Austen, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens and many others; the journals of Frances Burney, John Henry Newman and others; the works of Aphra Behn, Robert Boyle, Charles Darwin, John Dewey, Eliza Haywood, John Locke, Charles Sanders Pierce, Mary Shelley, Herbert Spencer, Mary Wollstonecraft, and others.
  • Perdita manuscripts : women writers, 1500-1700  Icon (Adam Matthew Digital)
    Complete facsimile images of over 230 manuscripts written or compiled by women living in the British Isle during the 16th and 17th centuries. Contents include account books, advice, culinary writing, meditation, travel writing, and verse. Perdita manuscripts can be indexed by name, place, genre, and first lines of both poetry and prose.
  • Popular Culture in Britain and America, 1950-1975 : Rock and Roll, Counterculture, Peace and Protest  Icon (Adam Matthew)
    Contains digitizations of popular culture collections from the U.S. and U.K. between1950 to 1975. These original archival materials are from various libraries and archives. Topics include student protests, civil rights, consumerism, and the Vietnam War. The collection includes pamphlets, letters, government files, eye witness accounts, underground magazines, visual and video materials and ephemera and memorabilia. Part II contains additional material, such as music, press kits, mailorder catalogues, advertising proofs, additional photos from the Mirrorpix archives, and documents on student unrest and the Troubles in Northern Ireland from the National Archives. 
  • Prize papers online. 1, American Revolutionary War and Fourth Anglo-Dutch War.
    Prize papers online. 2, Seven Years' War and War of the Austrian Succession.
    Prize papers online. 3, First, second and third Anglo-Dutch War and War of the Spanish Succession.   (Brill)
    "The Prize Papers archive, part of the archives of the High Court of Admiralty kept in The National Archives (TNA) Kew, is commonly regarded as one of the most valuable archives in the field of maritime history. In the course of its many naval engagements the British Royal Navy seized numerous enemy ships. Documents pertaining to tens of thousands of these seized ships (“prizes”), Dutch and French, Spanish and Portuguese, but also Danish, Swedish, German, Italian and American have been preserved.... The English authorities enquired about the origin, the route and planned destination, tonnage, freight and crew members, about citizenship, national allegiance, and the personal migration history of the interrogated crew members. The answers were interpreted into English, and written down by professional secretaries.... Brill has digitized the interrogations, and made them available online to researchers all over the world. Prize Papers Online provide images of each interrogation , while the answers to the fourteen most researched questions have been transcribed and stored in a searchable database." 

  • The Proceedings of the Old Bailey: London's Central Criminal Court 1674 to 1913
    The Old Bailey Proceedings Online makes available a fully searchable, digitised collection of all surviving editions of the Old Bailey Proceedings from 1674 to 1913, and of the Ordinary of Newgate's Accounts, 1690 to 1772. It allows access to over 210,000 trials and biographical details of approximately 3,000 men and women executed at Tyburn, free of charge for non-commercial use.
  • Queen Victoria's journals Icon  (ProQuest)
    "Makes available online digital images of every page in the entire sequence of Queen Victoria's diaries, and provides full transcriptions and keyword searching of all journal entries. The Queen Victoria's Journals resource is the product of a unique partnership between the Bodleian Libraries and the Royal Archives, working in collaboration with the online publisher ProQuest.This website reproduces as high-resolution colour images every page of the surviving volumes of Queen Victoria's journals, along with separate photographs of the many illustrations and inserts within the pages." (from publisher's description)
  • RAI Archive (Wiley)
    Provides access to more than 150 years of the longest-established association dedicated to the furtherance of anthropology in its broadest sense. The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland's unique collection of association files, manuscripts, and photos, documents the history of the association, as well as the services it provided to contemporary anthropology and anthropologists.
  • State Papers Online : Early Modern Government in Britain and Europe Icon   (Gale Cengage Learning)
    A collection of English government documents originating from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The office archives and correspondence of the secretaries of state serving the Monarch are included as facsimile manuscript documents accessible through fully searchable Calendar entries. This collection contains information on every facet of English government, including social and economic affairs, law and order, religious policy, crown possessions and intelligence gathering as well as Britain's international relations and foreign policy.
  • Travel Writing, Spectacle and World History  Icon (Adam Matthew)
    Women's travel diaries and correspondence from the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. Includes manuscripts, diaries, travel journals, correspondence, photographs, postcards and ephemera, from 1818 to the 1970s. The geographical area covered by these diaries is far-reaching, with travel to countries within the British, French, Chinese and American empires and discussion of empire and nationalism, as well as description of the post-colonial world. A great variety of modes of transport are covered, including sea voyages, road trips, wagon trains and air travel. 
  • Victorian popular culture  Icon (Adam Matthew Digital)
    An essential resource for the study of popular entertainment in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Consists of four components: Spiritualism, Sensation and Magic; Circuses, Sideshows and FreaksMusic Hall, Theatre and Popular Entertainment; and Moving Pictures, Optical Entertainments & the Advent of Cinema. Includes full-text, full-color reproductions of books, ephemera, handbills, pamphlets, photos, posters, programs, scripts, and other types of materials. Coverage is most extensive for Great Britain; but there is also a fair range of materials for the U.S.A.
  • Women Writers Online Icon  (Northeastern University)
    More than two hundred full-text works in English, or in English translation, by women, covering a period from 1400 to 1850.



  • Documents issued by the British Government within the Confidential Print series were selected from a larger range of documents produced by the Foreign Office (FO); Colonial Office (CO); War Office (WO); and selected other offices concerned with international relations. Each Confidential Print document was assigned a number indicating its place in the series; and was printed and circulated widely amongst relevant units of the British government.
  • The Confidential Print series for Africa; Latin America; Middle East; and North America are available online in Archives direct : sources from The National Archives, UK
  • A more wide ranging set of Confidential Print documents is available in the printed series British Documents on Foreign Affairs--Reports and Papers from the Foreign Office Confidential Print. British Documents on Foreign Affairs reprints Confidential Print documents in series based on country, continent, or region (for example, Africa; Russia; Turkey, Iran, and the Middle East) or on key international organizations or events (for example, The League of Nations, 1918-1941; Paris Peace Conference of 1919). It remains useful for its coverage of regions and organizations not covered in Archives Direct:, as well as for scholars who prefer to work with the printed volumes. While the libraries are closed, most of the CLIO records for British Documents on Foreign Affairs feature links in the left-hand column inside the record that read:  Hathi Trust  Viewability  Log in for temporary access v.1, etc. Use those links to log in for full text PDF access to the volumes.


A. Search for Databases with Content Related to British, Irish, or British Imperial History
You can select the Databases facet in CLIO:
Then search for words appearing in the title or description of databases.

For example, a search for: british
leads to these results:

A search for: irish
leads to these results:

A search for: empire OR colonial
leads to these results:


B. Find Compilations of Primary Sources

Add this tag word to a search of Subject field: sources

The subject headings used in library catalogs make use of a standard tag word
to indicate compilations of primary sources in various formats (including both printed compilations and online database collections).

Here are some examples of complete subject headings using the "sources" tag word.








Once you are aware of this standard tag word, you can simply add it to basic keyword searches of the Subject field in CLIO. For example:
great britain colonies sources  in  Subject
which will retrieve this result set:

ireland social sources
which will retrieve this result set: