Digitisation of the National Archives' Calendars of State Papers through British History Online

Project start date: 2007-11 Project end date: 2009-10
This project completed the digitisation of the National Archives' Calendars of State Papers, a key resource for historians of England in the early modern period. The IHR had already been funded by The Andrew W Mellon Foundation to digitise and publish the Calendars of State Papers, Domestic (1547-1704, 1760-75) and those for Scotland and Ireland. The addition of the remaining 290 volumes (Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic of Henry VIII; the State Papers, Foreign; the State Papers, Colonial; Treasury books and papers; and papers held in foreign archives) has made the entire series accessible to researchers in higher education and beyond. The calendars have been made available through the British History Online digital library (www.british-history.ac.uk) alongside other core primary and secondary sources for the early modern period, including the Journals of the Houses of Commons and Lords and the substantial part of the Victoria County History. The calendar texts are fully cross-searchable with this range of complementary material, using a controlled vocabulary of subject terms, and personal and place names. This represents an enormous gain in terms of accessibility and usability. The delivery of the calendars online has also presented scholars with the opportunity to comment on and correct any errors or omissions in the texts, leading ultimately to what might be perceived as new 'editions'. This element of the project has represented one way in which scholars in the humanities can adopt the e-science agenda via collaborative research/editing, in a mediated environment. With concerns about academic sustainability of large-scale digital resources increasingly to the fore, it continues to test the ability and willingness of the research community to take collective responsibility for enhancing and updating key historical material, and the ways in which Web 2.0 technologies can be applied in an academic research context.
Subject domains: 
Methods usedCategory
2d Scanning and photographyData capture
Accessibility analysisStrategy and project management
DocumentationStrategy and project management
PrototypingStrategy and project management
Risk managementStrategy and project management
Security planningStrategy and project management
textContent types
Funding sources: 
Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Content types created: 
Software tools used: 
Ms Access VBA, Active Server Pages (ASP)
Source material used:  
The Public Record Office Act of 1838 authorised the printing of catalogues, indexes and calendars. Since that date, 770 volumes of calendars have been published, making available in printed form details of the main records of government in England from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries. The calendars were intended to provide a précis full enough, for most purposes, to replace the original documents, which were printed in chronological order (hence ‘calendar’). Commonly described as ‘the motorways of history’, they provide the basic infrastructure of historical research in the medieval and early modern periods. The calendars are an essential source for historians in higher education, at all levels. They are, of course, invaluable for the study of central government and administration, but they are, in addition, a rich resource for the social, cultural and economic history of Britain. The calendars also contain a wealth of personal and place name information, and are increasingly used by family and local historians, as well as by those of all ages and levels of experience interested in the history of their locality, region or country. The volumes digitised for this project include the Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic of Henry VIII; the State Papers, Foreign; the State Papers, Colonial; Treasury books and papers; and papers held in foreign archives.
Digital resource created:  
The digitised calendars will be made freely available on the existing British History Online website (www.british-history.ac.uk) in XML format and as page images, to allow cross-searching with a range of other resources. The project output is primarily of interest to historians in HEIs at the postgraduate stage and beyond, although the wealth of place and personal names that the calendars contain ensures that there is a much larger general audience. The website already enjoys high levels of recognition and usage within the academic community, but there is an ongoing programme of communication to ensure that new resources, such as the calendars, are brought to the widest audience. British History Online is a digital library of some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and early modern history of the British Isles. To date, the project has digitised and made freely available more than 400 volumes, including such central resources as the Victoria County History of England, and the Journals of the Houses of Commons and Lords. Particular areas of strength are in local history, ecclesiastical and religious history, administrative and parliamentary history, economic and taxation history, and urban and metropolitan history. The resources published through BHO have been selected both for their centrality to historical research and for their interconnection.
Access to digital resource:  
Open Access
Data Formats created: 
Extensible Markup Language (XML), Graphics interchange format file (GIF), Tagged Image File Format (TIFF)
Generation of HTML files from XML data for web-delivery
Metadata standards employed: 
Dublin Core, simple (DC)

Institutions affiliated with this project: 

UK HE institutions involved:
University of London

Project staff and expertise: 

Principal staff member:Dr Jane Winters (Principal Investigator); Dr Matthew Davies (Co-Investigator)
Other staff:Computing officer(s) / Technical supporter(s), Postdoctoral researcher(s) / Research assistant(s)
External expertise:

Metadata on this arts-humanities.net record
Author(s) of recordJane Winters
TitleDigitisation of the National Archives' Calendars of State Papers through British History Online
Record created2008-04-11
Record updated2010-06-23 15:42
URL of recordhttp://www.arts-humanities.net/node/2288
Citation of recordJane Winters: Digitisation of the National Archives' Calendars of State Papers through British History Online.
created: 2008-04-11, last updated 2010-06-23 15:42