Welcome to the British History Subject Guide at Carleton University Library.

Explore your topic

Introducing Summon - which makes it possible to search across many of the library's collections simultaneously. Including books, ebooks, journal titles, games, music, videos, government information, maps, and more.

However,  Summon doesn't search everything that the library owns or subscribes to so you will still need to search other resources to find everything that you need. Summon also doesn't let you do sophisticated searches that you may be used to doing in specific databases or the library catalogue.  

When to use Summon

  • When starting research on a topic
  • If you are not sure which databases to use

For assistance using Summon please contact the Research Help Desk.

Library Guide: 


Journal Articles

TIP: America History and Life and Historical Abstracts can se searched together:

  • Open either one of these databases
  • At the TOP of the search page click on "Choose Databases"
  • Tick off America History and Life and Historical Abstracts
  • Click OK
  • Begin your search

Archives & Primary Sources

Primary Sources: 
  • A primary source is a document or physical object which was written or created during the period being studied. These sources were present during an experience or time period and offer an inside view of a particular event.  Also included are works created later by an eyewitness or a participant in an event, e.g. memoirs/autobiographies.

Types of primary sources

  • Original documents (including excerpts and translations): diaries, speeches, manuscrips, letters, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records, ancient literature, magazine and newspaper articles.
  • Creative works: poetry, drama, novels, printed music, sound recordings, art.
  • Relics or artefacts: pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings.
  • Statistics and raw data
  • Reproductions, facsimiles or replicas of original documents, creative works or artefacts are also acceptable as primary sources.

Examples of primary sources:

Winston and Clementine; the personal letters of the Churchills

The Gladstone diaries

Economic effects of the war upon women and children in Great Britain [microform] 

The Constitution of Canada

Newspaper article from the time an event occurred

Jane Austen's novel "Pride and Prejudice"

Photographic reproduction of artist Frederic Leighton's "Greek Girls Picking up Pebbles by the Sea"

A journal article reporting new research or finding

Finding primary sources in the library collection

   1. Original documents can be found by consulting the Archives and Research Collections (ARC) website.
   2. Reproductions can be found by checking the library catalogue.

Use specific words to locate primary sourcees in the Library catalogue, such as: correspondence, sources, diaries, letters, personal naratives. KEYWORD search examples:

  • [PERSON’S NAME] and s:correspondence
  • [PERSON’S NAME] and s:diaries
  • [PERSON’S NAME] and s:letters
  • [KEYWORD] and s:sources

In the electronic and microform collections

Historical Digital Collections

General Collections of Documents

Covers many subjects. Browse subjects

Contains primary and secondary sourcesof a diverse range of sources, such as: 

Nineteenth-century Ordnance Survey maps 
Journals of the House of Lords and House of Commons
The Victoria County History of the counties of England
The Survey of London from English Heritage
Calendars of state papers
Letters, diaries and more

A collection of 19th-century books, periodicals, official documents and newspapers.

EEBO contains digital facsimile page images of virtually every work printed in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and British North America and works in English printed elsewhere from 1473-1700.

Collections of Celtic manuscripts from several Oxford libraries (manuscripts digitised in this phase date from the 9th to the 19th centuries, and are of Irish, Welsh, Cornish and Breton origin), and a broader range (dating from the 9th to the 16th centuries and of various origins).

A clear­ing­house for dis­cov­er­ing and shar­ing links to eight­eenth-cen­tu­ry pri­mary ma­te­ri­als and aims to build a da­ta­base of bib­lio­graph­ically ac­cu­rate rec­ords that link to freely-a­vail­able texts on­line. Covers periodicals as well.

A digital collection of significant English-language and foreign-language titles printed in during the eighteenth century. Includes works published in Great Britain during the 18th C, along with thousands of important works from the Americas.  A variety of materials are represented: books and directories, Bibles, sheet music, sermons, advertisements, and more.

Rare journals printed between 1685-1815, illuminating all aspects of eighteenth-century social, political and literary life.

The English Heritage Archive (photographs dating from the 1850s to the present day, ranging from architectural details to archaeological landscapes, from country houses to coal mines, covers counties from Cornwall to Northumberland)

Constitutional History of Great Britain. 

Evidence of English daily life. Includes records and files as well as surveys, topic collections, diaries, books, essays and photographs.

List of Collections available HERE.


Aviation history from 1909-2004.

Law, Crime and Punishment

Digitized collection of more than 500 English broadsides dating from 1707 to 1891. Includes accounts of executions for such crimes as arson, assault, counterfeiting, horse stealing, murder, rape, robbery, and treason.

More than 100,000 of the most important early English cases that laid the foundation for the laws of nations under the British Empire.

The Newgate Calendar was a hugely popular publication of the 18th and 19th centuries. It was originally a monthly bulletin of executions, produced by the keeper of Newgate prison in London. Reprinted version of cases also available.

A fully searchable edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing 197,745 criminal trials held at London's central criminal court.


Empire, Exploration and Travel

Searchable collection of primary source material relevant to the 1801 Act of Union between Ireland and Great Britain. Includes pamphlets, parliamentary papers, newspaper articles and manuscripts.

Arctic Blue Books online is a searchable version of Andrew Taylor's unique index to the 19th Century British Parliamentary Papers concerned with the Canadian Arctic.

The exhibition is a series of taped interviews -- conducted by Professors Frank de Caro and Rosan Augusta Jordan of the LSU English Department -- with British people who lived and worked in India before Independence in 1947. Collectively they provide a sort of "self-portrait" of a colonial subculture and accounts of how Europeans experienced a great Asian society under the peculiar conditions of their time. Quotations from the interviews have been included for each section of the exhibition. These first-person "testimonies" allow the visitor to experience history through the immediacy of spoken recollections.

The study of 'Empire'. Sections include Cultural Contacts, Literature of Empire, the Visible Empire, Religion, Race, Class and Imperialism.  Also contains images of unique source material including maps, manuscripts, pamphlets, paitings, drawings and rare books. 

This is the largest collection of historical British travel writing on the web. Each author gives a different perspective on the towns and villages they visited.

Government and Politics

The Henry III Fine Rolls Project is a pioneering enterprise in publishing for the first time an English calendar of the fine rolls from 1216 down to 1248 in the form of an electronic edition including the digital facsimile images.

This collection comprises the most detailed primary source for the 19th century for Britain, its colonies and the wider world. These were working documents of the governments of the day for all areas of social, political, economic and foreign policy.

Available dates:  1509-1614, 1620-1649, 1660-1681, 1685-1793, 1830-1832

Digitized collection of 19th and 20th century pamphlets.

State Papers Online, 1509-1714 is a collection of English government documents originating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Provides an index to Stationery Office publications by date, title, and government department, as well as to official publications by category.


Yellowbacks were cheap, 19th century British literature sold at railway book stalls, with colorful, sensational covers to attract buyers. While some were well-known books such as “Sense and Sensibility,” many of the yellowbacks were obscure titles by authors unknown today.

Online repository of works printed in English between 1477-1799

Database of digitised British street literature, published between 1790 and 1840.

Local and Regional History




Searchable collection of nearly 1,800 broadsides from Scotland between 1650 and 1910.


Medicine and Health

Science and Technology

Electronic index of the scientific content of sixteen general periodicals. Contains entries for over 14,000 articles and references to more than 6000 individuals and 2500 publications.



Searchable database of over 150,000 editorial, socio-political and pocket cartoons dating back to 1904.

Charles Booth Online Archive contains digitized versions of poverty maps, police notebooks and the Booth family magazine, The Colony.

The Fabian Society started publishing tracts in 1884, and included in this site are most tracts up to 1997.
The site also includes a collection Fabian Society "Minute Books."

Collection of articles from The Guardian of major events over the 20th century, dating from 1899.

Features the full contents of around 150 case files of children in the care of the The Waifs and Strays' Society from Victorian and Edwardian times.

Digital collection of local and trade directories for England and Wales from 1750-1919

The Lewis Walpole Library Digital Collection presents images from the Library's collections. The main focus of the collection is the Library's world-renowned collection of English caricatures and political satirical prints from the late-seventeenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries.


Searchable collection of 1,300 digitized engravings and woodcuts dealing with the Jacobite rebellions maintained by the University of Aberdeen Historic Collections.

Digital collection of 1400 prints.

World War II (BBC - Radio 4 Collections)


Digital images of every page in the entire sequence of Queen Victoria's diaries. Provides full transcriptions and keyword searching of the journal entries covering the period from Queen Victoria's first diary entry in July 1832 to her marriage to Prince Albert in February 1840. At the time of launch (May 2012), only a portion of the transcribed text will be available. More transcriptions are being added regularly as the project progresses.


Times Digital Archive (1785-1985)

The Guardian (1821-2003)

The Observer (1791-2003)

Waterloo Directory of English Newspapers and Periodicals: 1800-1900


The Center for Research Libraries (CRL)
A great institution to check for historical documents, newspapers, journals, archives and other sources. "The Center for Research Libraries (CRL)" is a consortium of North American universities, colleges, and independent research libraries. The consortium acquires and preserves newspapers, journals, documents, archives, and other traditional and digital resources for research and teaching and makes them available to member institutions through interlibrary loan and electronic delivery." Carleton University Library is a mermber of CRL.



Citing Primary Sources: Chicago Style (Library of Congress)

Data & Statistics


Historical population (statistics census) reports from Britain and Ireland from 1801 to 1937.

Census information from 1926-1991

Government Information


Begin your search for locating British government publications by using the Library catalogue.

* You can do a subject search using GOV DOC Subject
* You can do a keyword search and limit by the location GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS
* You can do a keyword search using words from the name of the agency and from the title

e.g. a:"central intelligence agency" and t:factbook

* You can search for a particular government agency in Author
* You can search for a particular Title

If you experience difficulty in locating the material that you need, ask for help at the Information Desk in the Maps, Data and Government Information Centre.

Check the following online sources:

Papers can be downloaded for free.

Available dates:  1509-1614, 1620-1649, 1660-1681, 1685-1793, 1830-1832

See also: Government Information page

Maps & GIS


The historical map collection has over 30,000 maps and images online. The collection focuses on rare 18th and 19th century North American and South American maps and other cartographic materials. Historic maps of the World, Europe, Asia, and Africa are also represented.

UK's most comprehensive historical map archive



Britain from Above presents the unique Aerofilms collection of aerial photographs from 1919-1953.

Library of Congress provides a portion of digital images.

The British Library provides a number of digitized collections including thousands of images.

The Lewis Walpole Library Digital Collection presents images from the Library's collections. The main focus of the collection is the Library's world-renowned collection of English caricatures and political satirical prints from the late-seventeenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries.

The Visual Arts Data Service provides a portfolio of over 100,000 images in arts, historic photographs and material culture.


Collection of streaming educational videos that cover a wide spectrum of disciplines. Contains both clips and full-length videos.

For video material at the Carleton Univeristy library, do a KEYWORD search in the library catalogue and limit "Material Type" to FILM/VIDEO. If you cannot find what you need search the following database:

If you wish to borrow a video listed in Watmedia please fill out our Interfilm Video Request form - do not submit requests directly to Watmedia.

Films and still photographs from an archive of 90,000 videos covering newsreel, sports footage, social history documentaries, entertainment and music stories from 1896 to 1976.

A research guide to the UK’s 12 public sector moving image archives. Presenting detailed information and clips from these  valuable film and television collections.



Collects, preserves and promotes the use of digital resources, which result from or support historical research, learning and teaching.

Search or browse by subject from British Official Publications 1688-1995. Abstracts and some full-text available.

Britain from Above presents the unique Aerofilms collection of aerial photographs from 1919-1953.

Lists new books and journal titles published or distributed in the United Kingdom and Ireland since 1950. It also lists forthcoming book titles and hand-held electronic publications.

Bookmarked quality websites.

A digital library of 18th and 19th Century journals

Crime and Punishment

An electronic resource for the history of witchcraft and witch-hunting in Scotland in two parts: an interactive database, and supporting web pages. Contains all people known to have been accused of witchcraft in early modern Scotland - all 4,000 of them. Information includes the accusations and the trials as well a wide range of social and cultural themes.


Links to primary documents from the Internet Modern History Sourcebooks.

Exhibit by the Library of Congress and British Library.

Government and Politics

The entry point for UK government information and services online.


Local and Regional History


Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI)

Medicine and Science

Includes archives and books dating back to the 17th century and provides access to medical images from book illustrations in the collection, digital copies of some unique documents.


Provides free online access to resources which record and illustrate the migration of the Caribbean, Irish, Jewish and South Asian Communities to England over the past two centuries." Searchable collection of more than 150,000 items including photographs, documents, passenger lists, audio clips and more.

Excerpts from primary sources are organized in the form of a dictionary covering Victorian social history with topics ranging from advertising to words & expressions.


Complete with extensive footnotes, Domesday maps, Bayeux Tapestry plates, aerial and resistivity survey photos.


History to Herstory

Writing & Citing




RefWorks is an online research management and writing tool that is designed to help students and researchers easily gather, manage, store and share all types of information, as well as generate citations and bibliographies.