Primary Sources: Women in the National Archives (UK)

Women in the National Archives includes original documents related to the suffrage question in Britain, the Empire, and the colonial territories, along with a finding aid to women’s studies resources located in the National Archives at Kew.

The focus of the collection is on the campaign for women’s suffrage in Britain, 1903-1928, and the granting of women’s suffrage in colonial territories, 1930-1962. They include papers on government and police handling of the suffrage question, photographs and descriptions of leading suffragettes, police reports on suffrage meetings and disturbances, petitions, newspaper clippings, extracts from Parliamentary debates, Cabinet opinion and Committee reports on franchise bills, including the work of the Equal Franchise Committee of 1927-1928. There are also various sources relating to the arrest of suffragettes, their transit in police vans and treatment in prison. Accounts from suffragettes and their supporters, and reports from prison authorities provide details of hunger strikes, the ‘Cat and Mouse’ campaign and forced feeding. Prominent suffragettes include Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, the Pankhursts, Emily Wilding Davison, Clara Giveen and Rachel Peace (alias Jane Short).

The finding aid brings together the results of a five year project by staff at Kew and enables researchers to quickly locate details of any document relating to women in the National Archives at Kew. It is far more detailed and extensive than anything available elsewhere on the web and has the benefit of ranging across all of the classes of material held at the National Archives. The main topics include abortion, contraception, conditions of employment for women, divorce, domestic service, education, teaching and training, employment of women, equal opportunities and pay, health, marriage, maternity and child welfare, munitions work by women, nursing and midwifery, prostitution, single parent mothers, widows, women’s organizations and women’s suffrage.

Primary Sources: Colonial State Papers

The Library has acquired Colonial State Papers, a joint venture of ProQuest and the National Archives (UK) that resulted in the digitization of the Colonial Office Collection 1, Privy Council and related bodies: America and West Indies, Colonial Papers.  It contains thousands of papers that were presented to the Privy Council and the Board of Trade between 1574-1757, and which relate to England’s governance of, and activities in, the American, Canadian and West Indian colonies.

Included in this database is the Calendar of State Papers, Colonial: North America and the West Indies 1574-1739, a bibliographic tool providing over 40,000 descriptive records. The Calendar covers not only CO 1, but also documents from many other collections relating to the colonial past. Many of the bibliographic entries in The Calendar of State Papers, Colonial: North America and the West Indies 1574-1739 are supplemented with full transcriptions, extracts or summary abstracts, all of which can be searched in Colonial State Papers.

The search box defaults to searching both Colonial State Papers and the Calendar, but it is possible to limit your search to just items that have been digitized, and those documents can be downloaded as images or PDFs. Each record also has a durable URL that can be linked to from bCourses or a website.
The quality of the scanned images is very high, which helps with the fact that the original documents and hand-written, and sometimes stained, damaged, or faded. Tools built into the database will allow you to zoom in to see detail.
example of zoom feature in database

TRIAL: Primary Sources: Foreign Office Files for the Middle East

The Library currently has a trial for Adam Matthew Digital’s collection of FOREIGN OFFICE FILES FOR THE MIDDLE EAST, 1971-1981.

This currently includes only Module 1, 1971-1974: The 1973 Arab-Israel War and the Oil Crisis, which was released in January.

The trial ends February 29. The resource can be accessed at With trial access it is not possible to download documents in the collection.

“Digitising full runs of Foreign Office files from The National Archives, this collection provides invaluable insight into events in the Middle East during the 1970s. Covering events such as the Arab-Israeli War, the Lebanese civil war and the Iranian Revolution, Foreign Office Files for the Middle East, 1971-1981 is an essential resource to help students and researchers understand the modern Middle East. This collection documents UK interests in the internal activities and political relationships of countries such as Egypt, Israel, Syria, Iran, Libya and Lebanon, the oil affairs of nations like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Algeria and Iraq, as well as participating in military intervention and peace negotiations during key conflicts, and monitoring the UK’s commercial interests. Split chronologically into three modules, Foreign Office Files for the Middle East, 1971-1981 tackles these events using a variety of material, from correspondence between civil servants and embassies, reports and memorandums, to political summaries and personality profiles.”

Two more modules will be published in the future:
 • Module 2, 1975-1978: The Lebanese Civil War and the Camp David Accords (Nov 2016)
 • Module 3, 1979-1981: The Iranian Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War (Jan 2017)

Please contact me with your thoughts about the usefulness of this resource.