Primary sources in 19th-century british history for sdsu students government Reports, Records of Testimony, and the like

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Government Reports, Records of Testimony, and the like:

Don not miss the Parliamentary Papers, listed under that name among the library databases. We have a subscription to everything 1800-1900. Included are all the the testimony and reports generated by the British Parliament in the nineteenth century. Legally, much of this was material presented “by command” to parliament, so they are also called Command Papers. You may also see them called Sessional Papers and Blue Books. Cite them carefully – see the Chicago Manual of Style.

In this material you will find factory workers testifying about working conditions, and factory owners giving their views. You will find testimony on how the adult education system ought to be changed so that people will learn to design products that will be more tasteful and sell more widely. There is material on everything from urban sanitation to poor relief to foreign policy to railways to free trade to the elite public schools. You can do full text dearches. You can also drill down through different subject categories, to thr reports that interest you – this is usually are better way to go at the beginning of your research, because your will probaby wind up with only a few of the more relevant reports, rather than the overwhelming number you may get in a full text search.

This same online source also has all the acts passed by parliament and all of the consular reports from British diplomatic personal throughout the world. So if you are interested in Japan, or Latin America, or the Unites States, or wherever the British maintained diplomatic representation, there is a wealth of material for you.

More detailed guidance to British official papers is available. In the reference area on the main floor (floor 1), you might want to look at P. and G. Ford, A Guide to Parliamentary Papers: What They Are, How to Find Them, How to Use Them (J 301 F67 1972); and upstairs, P. Ford and G. Ford, Select List of British Parliamentary Papers, 1833-1899 (J301 M3), Frank Rodgers, A Guide to British Government Publications (J301 R62 1980) and Stephen Richard, Directory of British Official Publications: A Guide to Sources (J301 R524).
More then 10,000 nineteenth-century Parliamentary Papers on Ireland (not restricted to the nineteenth century) are available online here: .

Otherwise, if you need papers or bills from after 1900 – for the online set we own ends then – your options are more limited:

A few of the acts passed by Parliament are available online: . The standard printed source for English laws is Halsbury's Laws of England, which is in the law library at the University of San Diego (at the west end of Mission Valley, overlooking Mission Bay), at KD310 .H193. It is forty-three volumes and does not circulate, so you have to look at it there. There are also online sources, which you can find out about from the law librarians there.

Late eighteenth-century Parliamentary Papers, including Bills as well as reports, are available in a 145-volume set in the Government Documents stacks at UCSD, at GB X11 C65, with an index and guide in the reference stacks at J301 K625 1975. The collection is organized by topic and covers the mid-1770s till 1800.

Parliamentary Debates:

And then there is Hansard, which is the traditional name for what are also called House of Commons Debates and House of Lords Debates. The books include what was said in parliament, often in a well-informed speeches that could go on for hours, but they also include more detailed written answers inserted into the record later. Someone might ask a cabinet minister for shipping statistics, for example, and later on the minister will hand in an elaborate answer. (“Hansard” was the company that first produced the transcripts; now a generic name like “xerox,” “Hansard” can be used for most sets of parliamentary papers in the British-influenced world.) Hansard is online at .

Paper indexes to Hansard: Online searching may be all you need, but if you want guidance on the kinds of terms to search for, depending on your project. Unless you are looking for a specific event, or for a Member of Parliament who spoke only rarely, you might get overwhelmed by all the hits you would get by full record of Hansard in all its online glory. So, you might want to look at an index to Hansard. One index to Hansard after 1900 exists in the reference collection on the main floor: J 301 G74 1960. On the fourth floor there is a reprint of an old index for 1803-1830 at J301 H222, and something similar is at J301 K62 Oversize.

To understand the limits of Hansard's as a source in the earlier periods, see Olive Anderson, "Hansard's Hazards: An Illustration from Recent Interpretations of Married Women's Property Law and the 1857 Divorce Act", English Historical Review, 112, no. 449 (Nov. 1997), pp. 1202-1215.

Records of Trials:

For incomplete but deep records of trials at the Old Bailey, which is the central criminal court in London, see The site contains about 100,000 trial records from the period 1834 to 1913, plus may more going back to 1674. The search engine works by key words and also names.

Poor Law:

Two volumes of the offical records of the Poor Law Commissioners from 1840 to 1853 are available in our regular library stacks, at HV 241 A379.

Records of the health inspectors, looking for nasty things in houses and restaurants:
Other Official Documents:

The British Library, , will have some online exhibitions of full-text documents, but usually not too many – mostly they feature pictures of individual pages chosen for schoolchildren, plus lists and indexes to what you could see if you were in the building.

The National Archives (British version, that is) at If you have a reference to an unpublished source in the National Archives (say from one of the books you are reading), or if you find something by using their search engine, they will send you a copy online, often for the equivalent of twenty dollars or less, and sometimes for free. Note also that the National Archives used to be called the Public Record Office, and older references to the documents held there will start with the abbreviation "PRO". But now they use the abbreviation "TNA".

They also have a tremendous numner of sets of documents already on-line as "Digital Microfilm". The have picked specific subjects for this, such as the Chartist Disturbances and the investigation over the sinking of the Titanic:

Finding People Who May Have Left Papers, and Finding those Papers:

Within the National Archives there is the National Register of Archives. Since the nineteenth century every private company or organization has had to register its historical archives and is encouraged to open them to inspection. Many organizations have deposited their papers in county records offices, where they can be cared for and consulted. The National Register of Archives indexes all indivduals who are respresented by significant numbers of letters or papers somewhere. The website also explains how to visit these papers – some of the collections are scattered in different university libraries in the United States. See .

Not included in the National Register of Archives are the manuscript collections in the British Library, whose catalog is here: . You would have to go to London to see these collections.
Biographical Records and Census Data:

The British census, held every ten years in years ending in "1", is searchable for 1841-1911 at . For the official population reports (that do not list individuals), see .

You can also do searches in a database of the clergy of the Church of England. Different date ranges are available for different dioceses; note the current description of the contents: . The search engine is at .

Certain military records, the records of professions and occupations, and lists of criminals, POWs, and other categories of people can be searched online. For details, see .

19th-Century Newspapers

We do have microfilm rolls of the (London) Times going back to the eighteenth century, at F-147, and there is a printed index to the Times (many volumes, each covering a few years) sitting in the reference section at AI21 T5. UCSD has the Times online. Go to the UCSD Library website: . You will have to go to the UCSD Library to access them.

Another great nineteenth-century newspaper – and the voice of free trade and big business – was The Manchester Guardian. You can search it online at . Seeing the actual newspapers costs money, but very little.

A huge number of nineteenth-century newspapers, including papers from smaller towns, are available here: (this does not include the Times or the Manchester Guardian). As with the Guardian, the searching is free but seeing the newspapers themsleves costs a few dollars for one day's access.

A great resource for working class and radical views is the main newspaper of the Chartist movement from 1837 to 1852, the Northern Star, which is available in its entirety at This site also has certain other specialized newspapers, covering Unitarianism, women's issues, and literary news. (For other Chartist sources, see below, under "Other Primary Sources Available Online".)

Julian Harney was for a time the editor of the Northern Star; as Chartism faded, he adopted Marxism. He may have been the first person in Britain to do so. Our library has a two-volume set of facsimiles of his Marxist newspaper, the Red Republican, from 1850 and 1851. It is in the Compact Shelving room at HD 8396 R433 1966 vols. 1 and 2.

19th-Century Quarterlies and Monthlies:

Next there are the articles in the great Victorian reviews,which were generalist periodicals with great long articles, like some of those in the the New Yorker today. These reviews were full of long articles on intellectual, literary, political, and cultural topics. You'll find everything from discussions of foreign policy to speculations about physics to round-up reviews of recent literature or art to how to build greenhouses to serialized novels. We have the bound volumes of the Edinburgh Review, AP4 N3, in Special Collections. Other reviews, such as the Westminster Review, are on microfiche at UCSD. To see lists of articles in these reviews, and to identify the mostly anonymous writers, see one of the most useful things ever to have been published in Victorian studies: The Wellesley Index to Victorian Periodicals (5 vols.) at Z2005 H6 (in reference) – it also has essays on the different reviews themselves. Most of these reviews with their wonderful mix of articles declined by the early twentieth century; serious publications became more specialized and mass publications began to cater to people with shorter attention spans. More information on researching Victorian periodicals is available at .

Some runs of three journals, Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine (general interest, digitized for 1843-1863), Notes & Queries (short questions and answers on history and literature, digitized for 1849-1869), and The Builder (which is journal of the nineteenth-century building profession, digitized for 1843-1852) are available for free at . The site, which is at the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, also has three eighteenth-century journals, but the coverage is never going to expand. What the site has it has, and that is all.
Charles Dickens as a Newspaperman:

Dickens produced tremoundous amounts of journalism in his own newspapers, commenting on politics and daily life. This material, which goes from 1850 to 1870, on-line here: .

Punch – the Victorian humor magazine (with funny pictures):


Periodicals on Science or Medicine:

For some more specialized nineteenth-century journals in geography, anthropology, and science, as well as the English Historical Review (and for that matter the American Historical Review) from the 1880s on, see JSTOR (one of the article sources available through Infodome on the SDSU library website:– you will be prompted to sign on with your name, RedID and library PIN if you are not on an SDSU computer). The Journal of the Royal Geographical Society is available back to 1831.

Major nineteenth-century medical journals are available through Pubmed, which is available through the same website.

In science itself, a fantastic, open, and free full-text resource is "Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical": .

The papers of British naval surgeons from 1793 to 1800 are available here: . This includes surgeons on warships, but also those stationed on shore and on ships carrying convicts and emigrants. Many of these journals are heavily illustrated.

Books as Primary Sources:

Of course there are the works of major Victorian writers. You can very easily do primary-source-based research on Victorian England at your local Barnes & Noble or Bookstar (or Bay Books in Coronado) by picking up some of the Victorian authors in the Literature section. Our library will of course have a wider choice, especially in non-fiction, and Google Books is not to be sneezed at for digitized copies of odd things. (To get a pdf in Google Books, go to the gears menu.) You can also print the things you find at and

Finally, our library includes the published collected letters and papers of major and some minor nineteenth-century figures. Also, many of the oldest biographies, published in the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries, include large numbers of letters and papers in the body of the work. Sometimes these letters are heavily edited or expurgated, but these sources are close enough to being “primary” to count for most purposes – if you keep the possible editorial bias in mind and try to work around it. Many of these books have one-or-two-page evaluations of their reliability and quality in John Powell, Art, Truth, and High Politics: A Bibliographic Study of the Official Lives of Queen Victoria's Ministers in Cabinet, 1843-1969, which is in our library at DA562 P69 1996.

Other Primary Sources Available Online:

Among the research-quality online collections of primary sources, among the most impressive are the two sites that between them allow you to do real primary-source work on Charles Darwin: and .

And there are tremendous numbers of primary sources in legal, parliamentary, architectural, and urban history at . Click on "Sources." Most of this material is from the eighteenth century or before, but some of the nineteenth century collections include the papers of the London radical Francis Place ( ), the Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland up to 1842 ( ), and the Journal of the House of Commons for 1830 only ( ).

There is a useful amount of primary source material on the Chartist radicals of 1838 to the early 1850s at . (For other Chartist sources, see above, in the section on newspapers.)

Many historical trade directories, and notes on how they might be used, are at .

Depending on your theme, you might look at The Catalogue of the Great Exhibition, 1851 (in our library at Microform F-3456, 5 rolls). This would give you visual and short textual material on everything from furniture design to agricultural machinery.

The British Library website ( ) has a fantastic picture collection to search through as well. Click "Discover", and then "Online Gallery."

See also the Victorian parts of museum websites:

The Victorian and Albert Museum, , , , .

The National Portrait Gallery,

The Tate Britain,

The Wallace Collection, (you can search for nineteenth-century things)

The Museum of London,

The Science Museum,

The Welcome Museum of the History of Medicine,

The National Maritime Musuem,

The National Army Museum,

The London Transport Museum,

The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, ,

The Scottish National Gallery,


Beeton's Book of Household Management (original edition 1861) is cookbook that also includes how to write your will, how to hire your maid, how and what to plan for the weekly menu for different budgets, and so on. It also includes hundreds of little essays -- on where foods come from around the world, what different plants are like, how they herd goats in the mountains of Austria, and many more. Most of these essays are illustrated. In the better reprints of the book there are also dozens of full-page color plates. If you do a PAC search for "Beeton, Isabella," as an author, you will find that we do not have a reprint of the full book, but UCSD does, so it can ordered through the Circuit. What we have is a volume of selections from the full book, plus a microfilm copy of an edition from the 1870s. Modern reprints can be bought online for a reasonable price -- make sure you get one with the plates. The complete text (to which the illustrations are being slowly added) is at .

If you are interested in a British angle on the history of San Diego or the American West, you might go and look at this 1200-page thing in the Special Collections department of the Library: Abraham P. Nasatir (as in Nasatir Hall) and Gary Elwyn Monell, British Activities in California and the Pacific Coast of North America to 1860: An Archival Calendar Guide (San Diego State University Press, 1990). Nasatir was the first famous historian at SDSU, and his special contribution was to digest and describe documents.
Chronologies -- Not primary sources, but sometimes useful

For looking things up, see Chris Cook and Brendan Keith, British Historical Facts, 1830-1900, in the reference section at JN 216 C65. For looking up people who sat in the House of Commons for particular seats at particular times – and many other kinds of people -- see .

For works showing what happened year-by-year, so you can see how events from different realms of experience were interconnected in the experience of people who were alive then, see the Annual Register (a contemporary listing), which we have in Special Collections or online (it varies by year; see the PAC). For a century-old British view of what was important annually in the nineteenth century, see Edwin Emerson, A History of the Nineteenth Century Year-by-Year , 3 vols, D 358.5 E52. For a modern version, which includes the major books published each year, see Michael Cox, ed., The Oxford Chronology of English Literature at PR97 O98.
Finally, for more specialized help on British sources from books that list Cabinet Papers covering Wales to guides to water-colour artists, see Sharon Propas, Victorian Studies: A Research Guide, 2nd edn (High Wycombe, England: Rivendale Press, 2006). This also includes websites on women's history, guides to published and unpublished nineteenth-century diaries, and much else. This book is not in our library, but it is at UCSD and thus available through the Circuit.

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