About the IHR library

  • Reference collection of printed historical sources covering Western Europe and its colonial history. See the Collections page.
  • Free membership for university staff and postgraduate students. See our Membership page.
  • Opens long hours throughout the year. See Location and Opening Times.
  • Close to other important historical collections of the Senate House Libraries, including the main Senate House Library and libraries of the Institutes of the School of Advanced Study.

At the time of its foundation in 1921, the IHR library was conceived as “a workshop for historical research” where research students would learn to use historical sources in an integrated seminar space.

Although the teaching of history has changed, the library continues this source-based approach. Its collection consists mainly of printed primary sources, bibliographies, guides to archives, reference works, edited texts and collections of data such as lists of office holders, along with some relevant modern secondary works.

The reference-only library is nationally funded, international in focus and is free to use for university staff and postgraduate students. There are now in the region of 185,000 volumes in the entire collection, including both monographs and periodicals.



The collection encompasses the historical period from around the middle of the fifth century AD to the present, within subject variations. It covers the history of Western Europe and its expansion overseas from the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Material is acquired in the language of origin, and as a consequence more than half of the collection is in languages other than English. 

The entire Library is regarded as a special collection, but the following collections are particularly outstanding: medieval and early modern western Europe in general, especially chronicles, cartularies, episcopal registers and visitations and civic records; French history, especially medieval Normandy, the French Revolution and inventories of Departmental archives; Dutch history; the colonial history of the Americas; the US Civil War; British parliamentary history, especially printed poll books; and the English county record series.

There is a large collection of historical periodicals and a significant collection of microforms. We subscribe to electronic resources which fall within our collection remit, or where we subscribe jointly within the Senate House Libraries. See separate page for Theses holdings at the IHR library.

See the collections page for further information about the library's holdings.