Modern History Collections

Find out more about the early modern history resources in the collections of the IHR Wohl Library. We collect historical sources, reference works and guides to finding and using sources. This page shows examples from the collections.


The Wohl Library has a strong collection of printed primary source materials covering the history of the modern period dating from the late eighteenth century up until the current day. Supplementing these holdings are a selection of complementary aids to study such as reference works, guides and historiography. Particular strengths of the modern history collection include newspapers, directories, parliamentary records, and narrative accounts in the form of correspondence, diaries and reports. 

The modern history collection at the Wohl library is eclectic and aggregates a wide selection of material from many of our other collections. Whilst a dominant section of our collection is of Western European provenance, the collection incorporates a large part of our Colonial Collections and explores themes of cultural exchange, global narratives and international affairs

Various important modern historical events are also well represented in this collection, including the French, American and Russians Revolutions, the Spanish Civil War, the industrial revolution, colonialism, and transnational conflicts including the First and Second World Wars and the Cold War. The guide below offers an overview of some of the relevant items held by the Wohl library. 

Finding within the Library

Collection Arrangement

Collections within the library each have a letter, followed by a numerical sequence (decimal numbers are used, arranged as if after a decimal point, so for example ER.53 comes after ER.504). Each national collection has a sequence of local and regional material following the general sequence. The main areas with modern collections and their corresponding classmarks are as follows:

  • Austria (since 1792): EA.293 and EA.294.
  • Britain and England: B.0 Bibliographies/guides, B.2 Biography, B.78 - B.84 England 1760 - Present Day, B.999 Parliamentary Debates 1803 - Present, BC English local history.
  • France (since 1789): EF.6 - EF.8.
  • General history: E.1 Historiography and Methodology, E.2 Reference works, E.74 - E.78 Sources and secondary works from 1789 - Present Day.
  • Germany (since 1789): EG.5 - EG.8.
  • Ireland (since 1801): BI.6 and BI.7
  • International Relation: IR
  • Italy (since 1796): EI.5 and EI.6.
  • Jewish history: EY.094 Modern Historiography, EY.095 Holocaust, and EY.4 (since 1789).
  • Low Countries (since 1789): EN.54 - 46 
  • Mediterranean world: EM 
  • Military: W.45 Revolutionary & Napoleonic Wars, W.46 1812 – 1914, W.47 1914–1918, W.48 1918 – 1939, W.49 World War II and onwards.
  • Portugal (since 1811): EP.36 and EP.38.
  • Religious history: ER.107 The Modern Churches since c. 1789.
  • Scandinavia: ED arranged by country 
  • Scotland: BS.6 
  • Spain (since 1808): ES.6 - 7. 
  • Switzerland (since 1798): EH.262 and EH.263. 
  • Wales (since c.1700): BW.4
  • United States: UF.4 US History 1775-1861, UF.5 The American Civil War, UF.6 US History 1865-1901, UF.7 US History since 1901.


    Further Help

    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 join the library and book a help session.

    Highlights from the Collections: Finding Aids

    Archive Guides, Bibliographies and Other Finding Aids

    Below is a selection of bibliographies and archive guides drawn from across our collections, highlighting period-wide materials, but also those specific to individual nations and subject specific areas of study.



    Economic and Social


    Reference Works

    The library has substantial collections of encyclopedias, biographical dictionaries and other reference works both in print and online. 




    Historiography and Methodology

    We have quite a large collection of titles that consider developments in historiography since c. 1800. While most of the titles listed here can be found in the general historiography collection, many titles about the Annales School can be found in our French Collection.

    Marxist Historiography and Historians

    The Annales School



    The most recent years of most of our journals are on open shelves in the Current Periodicals room. Earlier issues can be ordered from the stack. Many are also available online within the building via the links on the catalogue. Bibliography of British and Irish Historyand JSTOR are examples of the online databases that can be used to locate journal articles.

    Online Resources

    Accessing Resources

    You can access many of the digital resources listed here when in the building on IHR library computers or via the UoL Libraries wifi. Offsite access is mostly limited to SAS students and staff due to licence restrictions. Electronic resources in CD format are on the catalogue and can be requested.

    However a growing number of resources are freely available to everyone. In the lists below any resource that is freely available will be marked as "Freely Available" and any that can only be accessed from within the library by the majority of our readers will be marked "Onsite only".

    Also listed in the next section below are a number of portals and finding aids which list freely available online sources, ebooks and journals.

    Newspapers and Pamphlets

    Below is a selection of resources both freely available and accessible from within the IHR Library. For full lists check the Free Resources portal and our list of online resources.



    17th-18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers Onsite only
    19th Century British Library Newspapers Free
    Britain and UK Handbooks 1954-2005 Free
    Newberry French Revolution Collection Pamphlets Free
    Nineteenth Century British Pamphlets Onsite only
    ProQuest UK Newsstand
    Onsite only
    The Times 
    Onsite only


    Below is a selection of resources both freely available and accessible from within the IHR Library. For full lists check the Free Resources portal and our list of online resources.



    19th Century collections online (British Theatre, Music, and Literature) Onsite Only
    Art et Démocratie (1789-1792) Free
    British Cartoon Archive Free
    Victorian Popular Culture Onsite Only
    Vogue Archive Onsite Only

    Politics and Law

    Below is a selection of resources both freely available and accessible from within the IHR Library. For full lists check the Free Resources portal and our list of online resources.



    Churchill archive Offsite
    Database of Court Officers 1660-1837 Free
    Hansard 1803-2005 Free
    History of Parliament Online Free
    Independent Voices Free
    A New Nation Votes: American Election Returns 1787-1825 Free
    Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 1674-1913 Free

    Empire & Colonialism

    General Works and Research Aids

    The colonial collection covers general exploration and European colonisation and includes a significant number of travel journals. The collection of sources for the colonial history of North America is one of the best in the UK.


    Below is a geographic overview of holdings related to colonial history in Africa during the modern period. The IHR has significant holdings on the history of Africa, in particular works relating to the colonies held by European states.

    For more detail on the history of enslavement in Africa, please consult the collection guide for the History of Slavery

    British Territories: South Africa 

    British Territories: Central Africa 

    British Territories: East Africa 

    British Territories: West Africa 

    Belgian Territories 

    French Territories 

    German Territories 

    Italian Territories 

    Portuguese Territories 

    Independent Territories 


    Below is a geographic overview of the aspects of our Asian collection within the larger Colonial collection. The collection is strongest for material relating to the early history of the British Empire in India. There is related material in other collections, for example on emigration of people from Asia to other parts of the world.

    The adjacent School of Oriental and African Studies(Opens in new window) (SOAS) library holds material on Asian history more generally.

    Middle East 



    Taiwan, Tibet, Mongolia and Korea 


    French Indochina 

    British Ruled South-East Asia 

    The Philippines 

    Australasia & the Pacific


    New Zealand 

    Pacific Islands 

    Uprisings, Liberation and Decolonisation


    The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804)

    Latin American Wars of Independence (1806-1830)

    Indian Independence Movement (1857-1947)

    Mau Mau Uprising (1952-1960)

    Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962)

    Global Abolitionist Movements





    War & Revolutions

    The French Revolution, 1789-1799

    Within the French collections, there is a classmark dedicated to volumes covering the period of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars (EF.6) which includes a variety of primary source materials pertaining to politics, governance, law, religion, culture and administration across France during the time. 

    General Period  




    The American Civil War, 1861-1877

    The IHR boasts a large collection of civil war records largely pertaining to the military history of the period between 1861 and 1865. The core of the IHR’s Civil War history collection is the Papers of the War of Rebellion series (the official account of the war published by the federal government following the conflict). Other items include the personal papers of Jefferson Davis (president of the Confederacy), Ulysses S. Grant, and other leading figures during the war.

    General Sources and Research Aids

    Diaries, Letters and Other Writings

    Foreign Response

    The First World War, 1914-1918

    The IHR's collection of primary source material and guides to sources covers all aspects of the First World War from several countries. One of the strengths of the collection are the wide-ranging personal accounts, some of which can be found below. For a more detailed guide to this collection, refer to the First World War Collections Guide




    United States

    Post War

    The Second World War, 1939-1945

    Britain and Commonwealth 



    United States 


    Post War 


    Technology & Innovation

    Mass Media and Literacy

    For a more detailed guide to our collections, search our catalogue for  LiteracySchoolsEducational law and legislation or refer to the Social Policy Collections Guide

    Education and Literacy

    The nineteenth and twentieth centuries saw a greater democratisation of education across a large part of the world. The Wohl library holds a selection of documents including reports, registers and handbooks pertaining to the development of schooling, higher education and general literacy in Britain and Europe. This collection also includes several important sources regarding the education of women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 




    Periodicals, Newspapers and Mass Media

    Newspaper Collections

    Nineteenth Century Periodicals

    Transport and Infrastructure

    The library holds a selection of directories, maps and guides outlining the development of transport networks across Britain and Europe. See also Transport History Collections and map collection guide.

    Britain and Ireland