English local history
Since local boot and shoe manufacturer Thomas Hatton donated his collection of books on antiquarianism at our foundation, the University of Leicester Library has been collecting material on English Local History. The Library holds one of the largest specialist collections in the country, containing over 40,000 volumes of published primary and secondary sources supported by a comprehensive collection of local history periodicals. In addition to an extensive print collection, we also hold the papers of a number of historians associated with the Centre for English Local History. Elsewhere within the University, the East Midlands Oral History Archive has extensive oral history holdings for Leicester, Leicestershire and the wider region.
The Hatton donation of over 2,000 volumes contains editions of most major county histories of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries including works by William Lambarde, Richard Carew and William Dugdale. The print collection also contains a large number of monographs, major reference works such as the Victorian County History volumes, local record society publications, and 20th century local government and church publications. Other strengths include substantial holdings of 19th and 20th century trade directories for England and Wales, and around 100 18th and 19th century poll books. The collection provides national coverage, and has recently been enhanced by the donation of the Peter Draper collection of books relating to the history of Kent.
The development of English Local History as an area of academic research is well documented through the papers of prominent historians associated with Leicester, including W. G. Hoskins, Joan Thirsk, and H. P. R. Finberg. Other notable local history collections include the Leicester Mercury Archive, comprising newspaper cuttings and photographic prints covering the 1960s-1990s, the glass plate negatives of landscape photographs taken by Frederick Levi Attenborough, and the Joan Skinner Archive of material relating to Leicester's industrial heritage.
Our Special Collections Online contains a wealth of digitised primary source material for researching English Local History and the history of Leicester and Leicestershire, including:
- Historical Directories of England and Wales
- Manufacturing Pasts comprising materials relating to post-war industry in Leicester
- Gorrie Collection of political memorabilia relating to the labour movement in Leicestershire, c. 1889-1909
- A collection of digitised recordings from the East Midlands Oral History Archive covering the history of Leicester and Leicestershire during the 20th century
- Digitised rare books and manuscripts on the history of Leicester and Leicestershire from our Special Collections
- English Local History PhD theses from Leicester
The Library subscribes to a number of primary source collections to support research on English Local History, including:
- Ancestry Institution (on campus access only)
- Historic Digimap, providing access to historic Ordnance Survey maps
- Gale Primary Sources including access to British Library newspapers
How to search
This is just a selection of the material we hold that covers this subject. You can find these items and many more by using the following search tools:
- Library Search for published sources. To limit your search to rare books, including those published before 1850 filter your results to Special Collections
- Many of our archive collections for English Local History are currently uncatalogued. Contact us for further information about these holdings
- The Joan Thirsk Collection and Joan Skinner Archive can be browsed and search on our Archives Catalogue
How to access
Our rare books and archives are open to all and can be consulted in the Special Collections reading room. Find out how to book your place and order material.