Researching the history of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland

Oral testimony is an invaluable source of information for local historians. EMOHA publishes a series of information sheets which explain how to conduct your own oral history interviews, how to access the recordings in the East Midlands Oral Archive and how to publish your material. Yet while oral history can make a unique contribution to histories of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland you should still use it in conjunction with other historical sources:

  • to test its accuracy and reliability
  • to understand the broader historical context
  • to follow up the new avenues of enquiry that it might open

The following is a brief outline of some of the sources available for the study of local history. While these relate mainly to Leicestershire and Rutland, much of the basic information will also apply to other areas of the country.

What sort of sources are available?

These fall broadly into two categories. Primary sources are actual records which have survived, and provide first hand evidence of historical events. For example:

  • Census returns and electoral registers
  • Street directories
  • Medical Officer of Health Reports
  • Minutes of local authorities and their various committees
  • Personal diaries
  • Records of local businesses, societies & other organisations
  • Newspapers and periodicals
  • Maps and photographs
  • Unedited video or audio recordings
  • Artefacts

Secondary sources are those which bring together and interpret primary historical material. These include books, pamphlets, edited video or audio sources, museum displays and websites.

Where can I get more information?

  • Bennett J. D., Writing About Leicester: a local history booklist (2000)
  • Jarrett R. and Brown C., A Guide to Local History Sources for Leicester and the County (1996)
  • Lord E., Investigating the Twentieth Century: sources for local historians (1999)
  • British Association for Local History, PO Box 1576, Salisbury SP2 8SY
  • Historical Association, 59A Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4JH, which produces a series of short guides to records, and organises an annual Local History Week. Telephone (0300 100 0223)
  • Local History Magazine, 3 Devonshire Promenade, Lenton, Nottingham

Where can I get access to local sources?

The Record Office

Many local records are available from the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland (ROLLR), which also has an extensive local studies library. The ROLLR is located at Long Street, Wigston, Leicester, LE18 2AH.

Libraries

Libraries are a useful source of local historical information. The Central Reference and Information Library in Bishop Street, Leicester, has a local studies section covering the County as well as the City of Leicester (0116 299 5410), and the Community History section of Leicester City Libraries is also based there. This has an extensive collection of reference material, including books, newspaper cuttings and photographs. Enquiries are welcome, but this material is not available on the open shelves, and it is essential to make an appointment to view it. Smaller local libraries in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland often have material specific to their particular locality.

Museums

Depending on the subject of your research, you may also find useful information through museums, either in the displays themselves, or by contacting curators or other specialist staff.

Local history societies

The members of local historical societies have often done extensive research into their own particular locality or subject area, and may publish newsletters or journals. For details of historical and heritage societies in Leicestershire and Rutland, contact your local library.

Leicester Mercury

The Leicester Mercury has a daily ‘Mr Leicester’ page, which publishes photographs, short historical articles, and appeals for help with research. Write to ‘Mr Leicester’ at the Mercury, St. George Street, Leicester.

BBC Radio Leicester

BBC Radio Leicester may also broadcast appeals for help with research, and the ‘Talkback’ programme currently includes a ‘Memory Lane’ phone-in from 9.00–10.00am on a Friday morning. The BBC Leicester website also carries information about historical projects.