Skip to Main Content

Modern Britain

Major collections

Mass Observation Online The Mass Observation project recorded the views and experiences of ordinary Britons from 1937 into the early 1960s. The archive is a rich source of information about Britain before, during and after World War II, and about changes in attitudes to many topics in social and economic life. Note that this is new material, in addition to what we already held in microfilm:

Mass Observation Archive [microform]: papers from the Mass-Observation archive at the University of Sussex
RECAP Microfilm 11923
Printed guide: N384.5 .M37 2001
See online guides at

John Johnson Collection
Digital edition of the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera at the Bodleian. Covers the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries in Britain. Includes “posters and handbills for theatrical and non-theatrical entertainments, broadsides relating to murders and executions, book and journal prospectuses, popular topographical prints, and a wealth of different kinds of printed advertising material.” Includes a substantial amount of material in full color.

London Low Life
Full-text searchable resource, containing color digital images of rare books, ephemera, maps and other materials relating to 18th, 19th and early 20th century London.

Rock and Roll, Counterculture, Peace and Protest: Popular Culture in Britain and America, 1950-1975
Interdisciplinary digital resource featuring substantial archival collections of original printed and manuscript sources, visual material, ephemera, and video clips focused on music, politics, fashion, youth culture, consumerism, changing life styles, human rights, equality, and war and peace in the United States and Great Britain, 1950-1975.

Contains a wide range of source material relating to popular entertainment in America, Britain and Europe in the period from 1779 to 1930. Coverage includes spiritualism, sensation and magic; circuses, sideshows and freaks; and music halls; theater and popular entertainment.

Topical collections

Literary Print Culture: The Stationer's Company Archive, 1554-2007 [online]
and Records of the Worshipful Company of Stationers, 1554-1920 [microform]

Microfilm 05633
115 reels
Printed guide: Firestone Microforms Oversize Z325.S73 R43q
The Stationers' Company archives constitute an important source for the history of the English book trade.

Minute books of the Owenite societies, 1838-1845
RECAP Microfilm 01594
1 reel
Printed guide: none
"The Universal Community Society of Rational Religionists (Rational Society) was established in 1839, with the amalgamation of the Association of All Classes of All Nations, established in 1835 by Robert Owen, and the National Community Friendly Society established by Owenites in 1837; initial aim, promoted through the journal New Moral World founded by Owen in 1834, was to prepare public opinion for the `secular millennium'." The originals are held by the Archives of the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam.

Journalism and politics [microform]. Series one, The papers of C.P. Scott, 1846-1932
Microfilm 09169
22 reels
Printed guide: DA576 .J687
Scott was the editor of the Manchester Guardian and corresponded with many influential British politicians of the late 19th and early 20th century . See and

Archives of the Trades Union Congress. Series 3, Periodicals and serials
Microfilm 05197
16 reels
Printed guide: none
"The British Trades Union Congress (TUC) began in 1868 as a permanent association of trade unions, and it now holds a major place in international labor affairs. The collection includes the organization's meeting records, pamphlets and periodicals, with some materials dating to 1887, along with financial reports, proceedings of summer schools, notes for speakers, recruiting advice and other documents. Many of the materials are unobtainable in their original form, making this collection an important source for the study of modern industrial relations and the labor movement, national and international political affairs and the government of modern Britain." We have only one part, Periodicals and serials, 1918-1977.

British trade union history collection [microform]: major works on the trade unions and their leaders, from their inception to the present day
Available through interlibrary loan from the Center for Research Libraries.
"This collection contains all the main source material (much of it out of print, and some extremely rare) for the complete study of the history and development of the Unions, and gives access to the wealth of social and political history contained in the story of these organisations and their leaders." Reel guide online at CRL's web site.

Conflict and consensus in British industrial relations, 1916-1948 [microform]
Microfilm 05454
48 reels
Printed guide: HD8391.C66.
Microfilm of PRO classes Lab 2, Lab 10, Lab 27, Lab 31, Lab 34, PRO 30/69, T1, T162. "The temper of British industrial relations changed dramatically from 1916-1946. Using Ministry of Labour Classes, including the difficult Lab 2, this collection illustrates the changing nature of industrial disputes, the government's increasing understanding of the trade union movement and the evolution of a consistent policy to maintain industrial peace."

Archives of the Fabian Society [microform]
Microfilm S00836
74 reels
Printed guide: HX241.F333 F343
"Britain's most famous society, the Fabian Society, was founded in 1884 to advance socialism by democratic means. ... It rapidly became instrumental in a host of social changes that helped create modern Britain. This collection brings together the minutes, correspondence, records, committee papers and more of the Fabian Society as well as adjunct groups such as the Fabian Women's Group, the Society for Socialist Inquiry and Propaganda, and the New Fabian Research Bureau, ranging from 1884 to 1964"

Fabian Society minute books, 1884-1918 [microform]
Microfiche 453
141 fiches
Printed guide: none
See above.

Glasgow West India Association, minutes [microform]: 1807-1969
Microfilm 10233
5 reels
Printed guide: none
Material from the Archives of the Mitchell Library, Glasgow, relating to the antislavery movement in Glasgow.

World political opinion and social surveys. Series one: British opinion polls [microform]
Microfiche 2282
Printed guide: (Film B) HN400.P8B757
Reproduces public opinion polls from Britain, 1960-1988. Covers political and social issues, consumer behavior, and many other topics. Subject and names indexes in guide.

The selected papers of George Howell, 1833-1910 British Online Archives Howell was an activist and political reformer of the 2nd half of the 19th century.

Bolton's textile industry, 18th-19th century: manufacture, trade and politics British Online Archives Two family archives documenting the textile industry in Lancashire, and the social and political life of the family.

Liverpool street and trade directories, 1766-1900 British Online Archives "This resource comprises all the street and trade directories in the collections of the Liverpool Record Office up to 1900, beginning with the first one to be published by John Gore in 1766."

BBC Listener Research Department, 1937-c.1950 British Online Archives "The "Audience Research Reports of the BBC", covering the period 1937-c.1950, present the early research of the British Broadcasting Corporation's pioneering Listener Research Department (LRD) into wireless listening in Britain nationwide and at a regional level.These items reproduce the entire available collection of weekly Audience Summaries, together with the weekly then daily Listening Barometers. Also included are the Audience Reaction Reports on specific programmes and Special Reports on particular themes or issues for the period, as well as some key policy documents produced by the LRD during these years, tracing the early development of what has come to be known as market research within the BBC."

BBC handbooks, annual reports and accounts, 1927-2001/2 British Online Archives "This collection, covering 1927-2001/2, includes all the handbooks, annual reports and accounts published by the British Broadcasting Corporation during the 20th century. In addition to financial data relating to the BBC's grant-in-aid and how it was spent, the collection contains a review of each year's public-service broadcasting, with detailed schedules, audience research, performance and objective tables, as well as commentaries and editorials."

Bristol Presentments, 1770-1917 British Online Archives "The Bristol Presentments are bills of entry derived from official sources (the reports and manifests of ships) which contain information about the trade of Bristol."

Liverpool Customs Bills of Entry, 1820-1900 British Online Archives "The Liverpool Customs Bills of Entry were printed broadsheets designed to provide factual information - primarily statistics - for merchants and other interested parties to keep abreast of the flow of commerce into and out of the port."

American material from the Tarleton papers British Online Archives "Liverpool's overseas trade expanded remarkably in the eighteenth century and the Tarleton family of Liverpool contributed to and benefited substantially from this expansion."

Letters, diaries and memoirs

There are several good bibliographic guides to personal papers, including diaries. Others may be found by searching the catalog for the subject "English diaries". To find other types of personal papers, try searching for keywords such as " "correspondence" "personal narratives" "memoirs" or "interviews" together with "british" or "english" and the country or topic of interest.

  • Huff, Cynthia. British women's diaries: a descriptive bibliography of selected nineteenth-century women's manuscript diaries. New York: AMS Press, c1985. Z7964.G7 H84 1985
  • Matthews, William. British diaries; an annotated bibliography of British diaries written between 1442 and 1942. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1950. RECAP Z2014.D5 M3
  • Batts, John Stuart. British manuscript diaries of the nineteenth century: an annotated listing. Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1976. Z6611.B6B38 1976
  • The autobiography of the working class: an annotated critical bibliography. Vol.1-v. 3. Editors, John Burnett, David Vincent, David Mayall. New York: New York University Press, 1984-1989. Z7164.L1 A86 1984
  • And So to Bed: A Bibliography of Diaries Published in English. Patricia Pate Havlice. Metuchen, N.J.: The Scarecrow Press, 1987. Trustee Reading Room Reference (DR) Z5301 .H38 1987
  • Women’s Diaries, Journals, and Letters: An Annotated Bibliography. Cheryl Cline. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1989. RECAP Z7963.B6 C55 1989
  • Unpublished London Diaries: A Checklist of Unpublished Diaries by Londoners and Visitors with a Select Bibliography of Published Diaries. Compiled by Heather Creaton. London: London Record Society, 2003. PR 908 .C74 2003
  • An Annotated Bibliography of Diaries Printed in English. 4 vols. C.S. Handley. Oversize Z5301 .H362 1997q
  • British Autobiographies: An Annotated Bibliography of British Autobiographies Published or Written before 1951. William Matthews. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1955. Z2027 .A9 M3