Particular strengths of our London collection include urban government, topography, and the urban fabric. All periods are covered but holdings are strongest for the late medieval and early modern periods. The London collection goes beyond the library’s usual focus on primary sources to include many reference works and some secondary material.
The London collection is at classmark BL, with oversize volumes at classmark BLL. It includes material on London as a whole, as well as covering the historic units of the City of London, Westminster, Southwark and Middlesex. Areas in Greater London which were formerly within Essex, Kent or Surrey are shelved with their respective county in the English local collection (BC.62 Essex, BC.67 Kent and BC.82 Surrey). Many sources covering London will also be found in our general holdings on British history (B) - see Related Collections section below. London’s connections with the wider world can be explored in our European, Colonial and American collections.
Highlights from the Collections
Guides to Sources
Guides to printed materials, archives and manuscripts, prints and illustrations, and maps are shelved at the beginning of the London collection, at classmark BL.0. Examples include:
- Thom, C., Researching London's houses : an archives guide, 2005
- Carlin, M., London and Southwark inventories 1316-1650 : a handlist of extents for debts, 1997
- Creaton, H., Unpublished London diaries : a checklist of unpublished diaries by Londoners and visitors..., 2003
- Howgego, J., Printed maps of London circa 1553-1850, 1978
- Adams, B., London Illustrated 1604-1851, 1983
- Knight, R. and Yeo, G., Greater London history sources, 2000
The collection includes many works detailing the lives of individuals, complemented by strong collections of biographical material in the general British history section. Examples can be found in the following areas:
- Officeholders/aldermen (BL.518)
- Livery companies (BL.520-521), including Apprenticeship records
- Parish registers
- Trade directories
See also our Guide to genealogical research.
- Maps and atlases (BL.1)
- Directories (BL.15 and local areas)
- Topographical dictionaries (BL.18)
- Survey of London (BL.19)
- Architecture and urban planning, including Pevsner guides and John Tallis's London street views (BL.412)
Works by Period and by Topic
- Roman and Anglo-Saxon (BL.241)
- Medieval (BL.242)
- Sixteenth century (BL.243)
- Seventeenth century (BL.244)
- Eighteenth century (BL.245)
- Nineteenth century (BL.246)
- Twentieth century onwards (BL.247-8)
By topic, including:
- Archaeology (BL.410)
- Antiquities (BL.411)
- Religion (BL.420)
- Social conditions, water supply (BL.432-4)
- Theatres and Entertainment, taverns, coffee houses and clubs (BL.438-9 and BL.650)
- Transport, rivers, bridges (BL.453-5)
Local Government Records
- Records and Statistics of:
- Metropolitan Board of Works / London County Council (BL.32-33)
- Corporation of London (BL.50)
- London School Board (BL.461)
- Judicial records, including Middlesex Sessions
City of London
Classmark BL.5, this section includes:
- Records of the Corporation of London (BL.500-505)
- The Guildhall and Mansion House (BL.512-3)
- History and records of Livery Companies (BL.520-1)
- Religion (BL.530-38)
- Parish registers and Parish histories (BL.532-3)
- St Paul's Cathedral (BL.534)
- Social history: The Poor and charities, hospitals and medicine, prisons, places of entertainment (BL.540-45)
- Economic history: Financial, Industry, Trade, Transport (BL.550-53)
- Education (BL.560)
- The Tower of London (BL.565)
- Inns of Court (BL.571)
- City of Westminster BL.6
- Southwark BL.7
- Middlesex BL.8
Periodicals and Record Series
Current copies of our journals are on open shelf in the current periodical room on the ground floor. Back issues can be ordered from the stack. Many are also available online within the building via the links on the catalogue entry. Bibliography of British and Irish History and JSTOR are examples of the online databases that can be used to locate journal articles.
Most London specific series are shelved at classmark BL.29 and are on open access:
- London Journal
- Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society
- London Topographical Record
- Home Counties Magazine
- London Record Society
- East London Papers
Relevant articles will also be found in non-local periodicals such as Urban History and Journal of Transport History.
See full list of online resources. Below are a few examples of resources that could be useful for this subject (most are available onsite in the IHR or via subscription only):
- Bibliography of British and Irish History
- British History Online - fully searchable full text of a range of sources including the Victoria County History
- 17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers
- 19th Century British Library Newspapers
- The Times
- History of Parliament Online
- House of Commons Parliamentary Papers
- London 1891 census (CD-Rom)
Within IHR library
- British history: Bibliographies and guides, medieval and early modern calendars and editions, personal narratives, for example Pepys' diary.
- English local collection: General local history, for example place name material, Victoria County history. Areas that are now part of modern London are with the collection of their former counties Essex (BC.62), Kent (BC.67) and Surrey (BC.82).
- European, Colonial and American collections: for London's connections with the wider world.
Centre for the History of People, Place and Community
The Centre for the History of People, Place and Community based in the IHR, works on a range of research projects, and hosts associated material and databases.
Senate House Library
- Special collections: Many collections, both print and archival, have London resources. The Bromhead Library is especially strong in London History.
- Modern collections
Other libraries, archives, organisations
Contact us if you would like help on finding or using our collections, or if you have any comments or suggestions about the content of this guide. We are happy to help.
You can also book a tour or training session.