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Library Guides

History: Archives and Libraries

Finding archival collections

In addition to the general collections of university libraries, there are also many specialist libraries and archives to explore in London.

AIM25 is a discovery tool to locate information about archival collections in the London area; it searches collection-level descriptions of the archives of over one hundred higher education institutions, learned societies, cultural organisations and livery companies.

Specialist libraries and archives

The list below is a selection of specialist libraries and archives that could be particularly relevant for research in History.


Bishopsgate Institute

  • 230 Bishopsgate London EC2M 4QH
  • Collections relating to radical, social, labour, feminist and gay history in London.

Black Cultural Archives

  • 1 Windrush Square, Brixton London SW2 1EF
  • Collection of archives and material relating to the experiences of Black people in the UK, with a particular focus on the late 20th century. The collection includes personal papers, organisational records, rare books, ephemera, photographs, and a small object collection.

British Library

  • 96 Euston Road London NW1 2DB
  • The British Library is the national research library of the United Kingdom and contains some of the best collections in the world, including over 45,000 electronic journals and 800 electronic databases. Both print and digital resources are accessed in the British Library Reading Rooms. There are also some very important archival collections, including the India Office Records, which are the repository of the archives of the East India Company (1600-1858), the Board of Control or Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India (1784-1858), the India Office (1858-1947). There is also a large oral history collection and collections of maps, posters and ephemera.

Feminist Library

  • 5 Westminster Bridge Road London SE1 7XW
  • Large archive collection of Women’s Liberation Movement literature, particularly second-wave materials dating from the late 1960s to the 1990s. The collections include fiction, non-fiction, zines and materials collected from women's organisations - in the UK but also internationally

Hall-Carpenter Archives

  • London School of Economics, 10 Portugal St, London WC2A 2HD
  • The Hall-Carpenter Archives (HCA) consists of around 2000 boxes of material relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activism in the UK. Most of the archives date from after the publication of the Wolfenden Report in 1957.

Imperial War Museum Archives

  • IWM London Lambeth Road London SE1 6HZ
  • The collections cover all aspects of twentieth and twenty-first century conflict involving Britain, the Commonwealth and other former empire countries. They include a range of media - art, film photographs, sound, new media, writings and objects. Some of the collection has been digitised, including most of the museum's poster collections.

Library of the Society of Friends (Quaker Library)

  • Friends House 173-177 Euston Road London NW1 2BJ
  • The Library's collection includes books, journals, manuscripts and visual resources, as well as the archives of the central organisation of Quakers in Britain - archive collections include the Quaker involvement in the Abolition movement. The library also holds the archives of Quaker organisations that are not part of Britain Yearly Meeting, such as Friends Ambulance Unit; and a few non-Quaker organisations, such as Central Board for Conscientious Objectors.

London Metropolitan Archives

  • 40 Northampton Road, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 0HB
  • The London Metropolitan Archives holds collections of archives, records, images, films and maps covering diverse aspects of London's history. There is also a large collection of books specialising in the history of London in the LMA Library.

Museum of London

  • 150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN
  • The Museum of London collections include, paintings, drawings, photographs and ephemera. There is also an ongoing oral history collection of interviews with Londoners.

National Archives

  • Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU
  • The National Archives contains historical documents created and collected by UK central government departments and major courts of law. Some collections have been digitised (especially for topics such as the First World War) but the majority have to be viewed in the reading rooms at Kew.

University of Westminster Archives

  • Archive Services University of Westminster 4-12 Little Titchfield Street London W1W 7UW
  • The University of Westminster Archive holds the records of the University's predecessor bodies, going back to the Royal Polytechnic Institution founded in 1838, and including Regent Street Polytechnic and the Polytechnic of Central London. The collections cover a wide range of topics supporting teaching, learning and research. In addition there are a number of collections deposited or donated to support research, notably in the areas of architecture and town planning including the Max Lock Archive and the papers of John Francis Turner.

Wellcome Library

  • 183 Euston Road London NW1 2BE
  • The Wellcome Library is free and open to anyone interested in the history of health and medicine. You can become a member by applying for a five-year Library Card. The Archives and Manuscript Collection is a primary source collection including nearly 9000 manuscripts and over 800 archive collections from the United Kingdom and Europe.

Westminster Reference Library

  • 35 St. Martin's Street, London, WC2H 7HP
  • This is a is a specialist public reference library that is free to join and has some excellent online newspaper archives, including the Illustrated London News from 1842 to 2003.

Women's Library @ LSE

  • London School of Economics, 10 Portugal St, London WC2A 2HD
  • The Women's Library collections contain books, journals, archive materials and objects such as posters and suffrage campaign banners. The archive material will be of particular interest to those studying the UK women's suffrage movement, or exploring the connections between 19th and early 20th century British feminism and the colonialism of the British Empire.

Digital archives

The list below is a selection of digital archives which may be useful for research in History.


British History Online | The core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles

  • British History Online is a not-for-profit digital library based at the Institute of Historical Research. It brings together material for British history from the collections of libraries, archives, museums and academics. The primary focus is on the period between 1300 and 1800.

Europeana Collections

  • Europeana is a search portal that allows you to search across digital resources of Europe's galleries, museums, libraries, archives and audiovisual collections.

German History in Documents and Images

  • A comprehensive collection of primary source materials documenting Germany's political, social, and cultural history from 1500 to the present.

The John Johnson Collection

  • This collection 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.

London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

  • This website allows you to search more than 5500 digitised Medical Officer of Health (MOH) reports from the Greater London area. The reports provided statistical data about births, deaths and diseases, but they also allowed the authors to express the diversity of their local communities and their own personal interests.

Migration to New Worlds - Adam Matthew Digital Archives

  • Selection of digitised primary source material from multiple archives and collections. Includes Colonial Office files, diaries, ship logs and more.

Old Bailey Online - The Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913 - Central Criminal Court

  • 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 between 1676 and 1772. It allows access to over 197,000 trials and biographical details of approximately 2,500 men and women executed at Tyburn, free of charge for non-commercial use.

Queen Victoria's Journals - Home Page

  • This digital archive provides online images of every page in the entire sequence of Queen Victoria's diaries, and provides full transcriptions and keyword searching of all journal entries.

UK Parliamentary Papers

  • Full text of parliamentary papers from 1688-2003/4.

Victoria and Albert Museum

  • This website allows you to search for objects and images from the V&A's collections. This may be useful for anyone wanting to use artefacts as part of their historical research.

Wellcome Images

  • The Wellcome Collection/ Wellcome Library have a database of images that are available to use under a Creative Commons Licence. Images are both historical and contemporary and cover medical and social history.

COLLAGE - The London Picture Archive

  • Picture archive that contains over 250,000 images of London from the collections at London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Art Gallery


Need help using archives?

The University Archive team can help you if you have queries about how to find archival materials.

For queries relating to the University Archives, they can help with:

  • finding plans of the University buildings
  • providing historic photographs for use in a project
  • identifying historical sources for how the University was affected by social issues or world events (e.g. LGBTQ rights or World War I)
  • suggesting resources as a prompt for creative projects

For queries relating to external archives, they can offer advice on:

  • identifying the archives which hold collections relevant to your area of research, including digitsed resources
  • tackling large scale research in an archive
  • strategies for searching archive catalogues
  • approaching institutions who do not offer regular public access to their collection

The University Archive is based at Little Titchfield Street. For more information see the University Archive guide.