Useful Links for History Students


By Dr Ruth Barbour

I completed a BA (History) from the OU in 2006 and am now in the second year of a MA in English Local History at Leicester University. I have also done the two Oxford University undergraduate diplomas in English Local History.

My current course places a lot of emphasis on landscape studies. Therefore I like sites that provide illustrations of landscape or maps. If I am looking at a new subject I may look first at a general site. And, yes, I do use Google and look at Wikipedia entries, but take them with a large pinch of salt!

British History online www.british-history.ac.uk/ British History Online is the 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. This ever-growing site provides two excellent sources - Victoria County Histories and Parliamentary Records (House of Lords Journal and Journal of House of Commons)

English Heritage Viewfinder: The Picture Gallery contains illustrations of the industrial age, social history, architecture and archaeology, dating from the 1840s to the present day. The Stories set the photographs in a wider context. Photo essays on a number of subjects including work - one I like is on the mining of granite on Dartmoor at Haytor. viewfinder.english-heritage.org

Images of England www.imagesofengland.org.uk/ an English Heritage site that provides photographs of all listed buildings together with a brief architectural description. One of our local sites is a telephone box.

A vision of Britain through time www.visionofbritain.org.uk/index.jsp provides maps, statistical trends and historical descriptions for Britain between 1801 and 2001

British Association for Local History www.balh.co.uk/index.php Lists Society visits and index + abstracts of articles in Local Historian & Local History News.

The Workhouse www.workhouses.org.uk/ Wonderful site. Want to know the wording of the 1601 Poor Law Act or the 1834 Poor Law Act. Look here! Want to find out details of your local workhouse - look here and you are likely to find photographs, plans and a transcript of the 1881 census. Incredibly apparently all the work of one man.

A2A Access to archives www.a2a.org.uk/ Whilst not a complete listing will save a lot of leg work! 10.1 million records relating to 9.25 million items held in over 400 record offices and other repositories.

Most Record Offices appear to have online catalogues available (though they may not list all their items) and many have other information available on their sites. Below are some examples:

Durham Record Office
Gloucestershire Archives
Warwickshire County Record Office
West Sussex Record Office

And, of course, there is the National Archives www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/

Historical Directories Searchable Digital Library www.historicaldirectories.org/ Allows access to a large number of 19th century directories which provide information about towns - including businesses and transport such as coaches. Badsey, Worcs village sitewww.badsey.net/index.htm An outstanding village site. Includes enclosure maps. Cumnor (Oxfordshire) Parish Record www.bodley.ox.ac.uk/external/cumnor/ Another very extensive village site with many transcribed documents such as census records as well as maps.

My particular interest at the moment is religious history. Warwick Network for Parish Research www2.warwick.ac.uk/ provides various links plus a very extensive bibliography for medieval and early modern religious study. National archives www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography provides an excellent online course for palaeography with a large number of examples (and solutions) ranging from very easy to extremely difficult. Intute: Arts and Humanities www.intute.ac.uk/artsandhumanities/ This site provides links to other useful sites - worth looking at!

Sites that need to be accessed from another site e.g. OU Library with an ATHENS password Searching under the database heading will produce a mass of sites providing both secondary and primary sources. The following are a few I have used - not a comprehensive list!
The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography www.oxforddnb.com (available in most public libraries) is an invaluable source for a summary of the career of a prominent (or surprisingly non-prominent) British person.
The Times Digital Archive 1785-1985 infotrac.galegroup.com.libezproxy.open.ac.uk can turn up interesting references.
Historic digimaps (Edina) digimap.edina.ac.uk provides images of historic Ordnance Survey maps dating from 1843 to 1996. Up to 4 maps of the same location but different dates can be viewed simultaneously.

My special favourite is Early English Books online eebo.chadwyck.com.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/home - can provide light relief especially the Thomason tracts. These are a collection of Civil War ephemera such as Prince Rupert's Burning Love of Birmingham.

And finally want to find more sites? Take this online tutorial. Internet for Historians www.vts.intute.ac.uk/he/tutorial/history