London History in the Institute of Historical Research Library

The IHR library has always had a strong collection on London history. The London historian Eliza Jeffries Davis was briefly the Institute’s first librarian and heavily involved in the early years of the IHR, setting up the London history seminar.  The Centre for Metropolitan History, based in the IHR, works on a range of research projects, and hosts associated material and databases.  Particular strengths of the library's collection include urban government and 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. They contain 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 under Related Collections below. London’s connections with the wider world can be explored in our European, Colonial and American collections.


Highlights of the collection

Guides to sources

Guides to printed materials, archives and manuscripts, prints and illustrations, and maps. Shelved at the beginning of the London collection at classmark BL.0. Examples:

Bibliography of British and Irish History

Biographical sources

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.


For example:

  • 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 on special subjects

By period:

  • 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

Sources include:

  • 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)

Other localities

Divided between:

  • City of Westminster BL.6
  • Southwark BL.7
  • Middlesex BL.8

Periodicals and Record series

Current copies of our journals are on open access 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:

Relevant articles will also be found in non-local periodicals such as Urban History and Journal of Transport History.

Electronic resources

A full list of our electronic resources is available at 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):

Related collections

Within IHR library

  • British history: Bibliographies and guides, medieval and early modern calendars and editions, personal narratives, for example Pepys diary
  • British 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 Metropolitan History

The Centre for Metropolitan History, based in the IHR, works on a range of research projects, and hosts associated material and databases on its web pages. Examples include Layers of LondonThe Records of London's Livery Companies Online (ROLLCO) and London and Middlesex Hearth Tax (1666): an analysis of the status and wealth of neighbourhoods and households on the eve of the Great Fire. For further information, see

Senate House Library

  • Special collections: Many collections, both print and archival, will have London resources. However the Bromhead Library is especially strong in London History.
  • Modern collections: The best way to search these is by classmark. There are two classification systems that cover London books: Bliss classification (Books classed from MWA to MWE) and the in-house classification scheme (books classed DC.1).

Other libraries, archives, organisations


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