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London History Collections

Find out more about the London collections at the IHR Wohl Library. Particular strengths include urban government, topography and the urban fabric. All periods are covered but holdings are strongest for the late medieval and early modern periods. 

Trade directories

Introduction

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 under Related Collections below. London’s connections with the wider world can be explored in our European, Colonial and American collections.

Highlights from the collection

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

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)

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)

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

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

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:

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):

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

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.