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The Library: History

Local history

Leeds Beckett Archive and Special Collections

The Archive and Special Collections at Leeds Beckett University are held at the Headingley Library. They include an archive of material relating to the history of the University, as well as collections such as the archive of West Yorkshire Society of Architects Library and the Tom Pevsner Collection. Some material and images are also available online.

Leeds Monument Map

Interactive map created by students from Leeds Beckett University’s Public History Project module, detailing different commemorative sites in the city. Each statue, monument and mural has a description explaining who is being commemorated and why. You can read more about the project here. Members of the public who know of monuments or murals that are not currently listed are also encouraged to use an online form so that the map can be added to over time.

Leodis: a photographic archive of Leeds

Leodis is an online photographic archive containing over 59,000 images of Leeds, old and new. It is managed by the Leeds Library and Information Service. As well as photos there are also 5,500 playbills from the library collections offering a unique view of theatre life in Leeds from 1781 to the 1990s.

Discovering Leeds

Information and images on the history of Leeds, put together by the Leeds Library and Information Services. Includes sections on industrial Leeds and the waterfront.

Secret Leeds

Discussion forum dedicated to investigating mysterious or unusual aspects of the built environment of Leeds.

Yorkshire Film Archive

A really useful collection of videos that you can use for local historical / contextual research. The Yorkshire Film Archive is a registered charity which finds, preserves and provides public access to moving image made in or about the Yorkshire and the North East of England.

Archives in the UK

  • Jisc’s Archives Hub provides descriptions of archives held in UK universities and colleges. Its Guide to Using Archives is an excellent resource for those not experienced in using archives in their research.
  • The National Archives holds millions of historical documents created and collected by UK central government departments and major courts of law. Its Discovery platform provides access to catalogue records held by the National Archives and more than 2,500 archives across the UK. Its Research Guides offer detailed advice by subject area.
  • Archives Wales allows searching of collections held by record offices, universities, museums and libraries in Wales.
  • The Scottish Archive Network  provides links to record offices in Scotland, and collection level descriptions of records held by 52 Scottish archive offices.
  • The Gateway to Archives of Scottish Higher Education project provides electronic access to descriptions of the archives produced by ten higher education institutions and their predecessors in Scotland, dating from 1215 to the present day.

Archives held abroad

  • Archives Portal Europe provides access to information on archival collections across Europe, as well as details of archival institutions and repositories.
  • ArchiveGrid provides descriptions of archives held at 130 archive repositories around the world (many are in the United States).
  • National Union Catalogue of Manuscript Collections (NUCMC) is a gateway, provided by the Library of Congress, to the OCLC Catalog of archival and manuscript collections in libraries, principally in North America but from all around the world.

British official publications

Cabinet Papers

Core records of the British Cabinet from 1915 to 1982 have been digitised, and their full text is searchable online from these web pages.

House of Commons Publications and Papers

Current information from both Houses, previous Hansard debates and latest select committee reports. Explore research from the parliamentary libraries and find out how to access the archives.

Legislation Archive

UK legislation from 1267-present. Also includes Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly legislation, and legislation originating from the EU. 

National Archives

Extensive website from the National Archives, including their digitised downloadable records. Includes detailed research guides to help you research people, places and subjects.

Historical statistics and census information

Census Records 1841 to 1921

National Archives guide that explains how to access the historical censuses from 1841 to 1921 online.

Great Britain Historical Database Online Documentation

A large integrated database of geographically-located historical statistics for Great Britain, mainly drawn from the period 1851-1939.

Histpop - The Online Historical Population Reports Website

The Online Historical Population Reports (OHPR) collection provides online access to the complete British population reports for Britain and Ireland from 1801 to 1937.

A Vision of Britain Through Time

Created by the Great Britain Historical GIS Project based in the Department of Geography of the University of Portsmouth, includes maps, statistical trends and historical descriptions.

Database collections of primary sources

Newspaper archives

You can also find a list of our individual newspaper archives on the News Resources page here which include:

Historic maps

Free online sources

British Library Online Resources

Extensive collection of primary sources and analysis from the British Library, covering topics such as Asians in Britain, Abolition, Victorian Britain, Votes for Women, World War One.

British Political Speech Archive

An archive of speeches given by Conservative, Labour and Liberal/Liberal Democrat Party leaders going back to 1895.

Chronicling America

Created by the Library of Congress, this provides access to information about historic US newspapers and selected digitized newspaper pages.

Local History Online in England and Wales

A spreadsheet created by historian Sharon Howard listing where to find hundreds of free PDFs of source editions and other volumes produced by local history societies.

Nineteenth-Century Serials Edition (NCSE)

Free, online edition of six nineteenth-century periodicals and newspapers. Titles are: Monthly Repository (1806-1837) and Unitarian Chronicle (1832-1833), Northern Star (1838-1852), Leader (1850-1860), English Woman’s Journal (1858-1864), Tomahawk (1867-1870), Publishers’ Circular (1880-1890).

Queen Victoria's Journals

This website reproduces as high-resolution colour images every page of the surviving volumes of Queen Victoria's journals. Each page has also been transcribed, allowing for the journals to be searched. A number of specially-commissioned essays have also been included in this resource, to further support the study and understanding of Queen Victoria and her world.