Scope and aims


The Bibliography of British and Irish History provides bibliographic data on historical writing dealing with the British Isles, and with the British Empire and Commonwealth (including relations with other countries), during all periods for which written documentation is available - from 55BC to the present. It is the successor to the Royal Historical Society Bibliography of British and Irish History, available online from 2002 to 2009. The complete database now contains just over 600,000 records, and is updated three times a year (usually in February, June and October).

As well as providing details of publications, the Bibliography provides links to help you find the items that it lists in research libraries, and it provides links to online text where available (you or your institution may need an appropriate subscription to take advantage of some of these links).

The Bibliography is a guide to the work of historians - it does not contain original sources, unless they have been edited and republished by historians (except for a selection of key sources published before 1901 derived from the printed bibliographies published for the Royal Historical Society and the American Historical Association by Oxford University Press). The Bibliography aims to be as comprehensive as is practical for publications since 1900; contents are not selected according to academic merit. Material is included irrespective of place or language of publication, although coverage is best for works published in Britain (and in Ireland during 1936-2006, the dates of publication comprehensively covered by Irish History Online during our co-operation with them).

Our co-operation with Irish History Online, which ran from 2004 to 2009, was one of several partnerships which have enriched the Bibliography. All data collected by the London's Past Online project, which ran from 2002-6, are included in the database. Since the end of 2006 the Bibliography has co-operated with teams working under the auspices of the Scottish Historical Review Trust which will henceforth edit the primarily Scottish titles in the database.

The Bibliography lists books, articles in books and articles in journals. 783 journals and series are currently searched systematically for material relevant to the Bibliography and you can consult a list of these here; subscribers can also see the list within BBIH (when the link opens, make sure that the "Currently searched systematically for relevant material" option is selected). However, material from many other journals and series is included as and when it comes to light. Electronic journals will be included if they meet at least three of the following criteria:

  • Editorial board includes well-known scholars in the field or demonstrates association with a university department;
  • Scholarly content;
  • Published regularly, or with reasonable frequency;
  • Submissions are refereed.

We welcome recommendations from users for journals that might be included.

We are also including an increasing number of online resources and, where such sites include essays or studies based on the material, we will list them separately if a DOI or ISBN is given so that we can be sure that users will be able to find the item in the long term.

There are some limitations on content:

  • The coverage of Imperial and Commonwealth history is not intended to provide a complete bibliography for the history of countries within the Empire or Commonwealth, but to provide a guide to writing on their relations with Britain. Read more …
  • We include material about recent events, but we try to make sure that it is historical in approach. Read more …
  • Although much was done during the compilation of the first version of the bibliography, published on CD-ROM in 1998, to extend the coverage of Irish history provided by the bibliographies on which the project was based, the coverage of the history of Ireland remained less complete than that for England, Scotland and Wales. However, coverage of Irish history was much improved after 2004 as a result of co-operation between the Royal Historical Society Bibliography and Irish History Online. As a result, all titles from Writings on Irish History for 1936-2006 are now included in BBIH. Following Irish History Online's establishment of a separate database at the start of 2010, BBIH is now compiling its own records for more recent titles on Irish history, although we will not be able to cover all the local journals that were included in Irish History Online. In the longer term, we hope to establish a new record exchange arrangement with Irish History Online.
  • The Bibliography aims to list new editions, but not reprints or paperback editions when the content is unchanged; collections of reprinted essays are included but their contents are not generally listed separately. Reprints of older works are listed when new scholarly material has been included (for example, in the form of a new introduction).
  • Review articles are included, but not reviews of individual works unless they are presented as articles in their own right. However, we provide hyperlinks to online reviews published by the Institute of Historical Research's Reviews in History, by H-Albion, by CERCLES: Revue pluridisciplinaire du monde anglophone and (from May 2010) by We do not accept responsibility for the content of any of the external resources to which we provide links.
  • Works aimed primarily at children and school pupils are excluded. (Prior to 2003, the policy was to exclude works aimed at those under 16: i.e., in an English context, those aimed at pupils up to and including Year 11.)
  • The Bibliography does not aim to include works on technical topics if they are intended primarily to appeal to enthusiasts in a particular area, and not to contribute to broader historical understanding: hence, for example, technical works on transport history, and works aimed primarily at collectors dealing with topics such as the decorative arts, postage stamps or coins, may be excluded.
  • The Bibliography contains unpublished theses on London history, but unpublished theses are not otherwise included in the database.


The database contains:

  • all titles included in the Royal Historical Society's Annual Bibliographies of British and Irish History for the years 1975-2002. The RHS decided in 2002 to cease publication of the printed Annual Bibliography in order to concentrate resources on the online edition, which continues to be updated with information about new publications as quickly as possible. New bibliographical data are drawn from many sources, including direct inspection of many journals not available online, but we also draw data (by kind permission of the British Library) from their Electronic Table of Contents database and from the British National Bibliography.
  • all titles in Writings on British History, covering publications of 1901-74, compiled by the Royal Historical Society and the Institute of Historical Research (these volumes omitted the publications of English and Welsh historical societies from 1901 to 1933, and of similar Scottish societies from 1901 to 1927, but this has been compensated for by including selected material from A guide to the historical and archaeological publications of societies in England and Wales, 1901-1933, comp. E.L.C. Mullins (London: Athlone, 1968) [including all record society volumes], and by including Scottish record society volumes published between 1901 and 1927).
  • pre-1901 publications from the bibliographies published by Oxford University Press in association with the Royal Historical Society and the American Historical Association, i.e.
    • Edgar B. Graves (ed.), A bibliography of English history to 1485 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1975)
    • Conyers Read (ed.), Bibliography of British history: Tudor period, 1485-1603, 2nd edn. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1959)
    • Godfrey Davies (ed.), Bibliography of British history: Stuart period, 1603-1714, 2nd edn., rev. Mary Frear Keeler (Oxford: Clarendon, 1970)
    • Stanley Pargellis; D.J. Medley (ed.), Bibliography of British history: The eighteenth century, 1714-1789 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1951)
    • Lucy M. Brown; I.R. Christie (ed.), Bibliography of British history: 1789-1851 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1977)
    • H.J. Hanham (comp. and ed.), Bibliography of British history: 1851-1914 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1976)
  • as well as keeping the database up to date with information about new publications, we have added many earlier titles which did not appear in the printed bibliographies, especially on Imperial and Commonwealth history, Irish history and women's history.
  • the database therefore includes, along with much new material, all titles included in The Royal Historical Society Bibliography on CD-ROM (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998) (with the exception of unpublished theses, of which the CD-ROM included only a small selection).

The database also includes the contents of Heather Creaton's Bibliography of printed works on London history to 1939 (London: Library Association Publishing Ltd, 1994) and the bibliography from her Sources for the history of London, 1939-45 (London: British Records Association, 1998). These were placed online by the London's Past Online project, along with supplementary records, previously unpublished, covering publications on London's history since 1945 and publications that have appeared since the completion of Heather Creaton's books. In 2005-6, titles from the Bibliography of the Archaeology of Greater London were added, providing an additional dimension to the coverage of the capital's past (however, very brief pieces contained in BAGL, including minutes of archaeological bodies, or reports of visits, have not been included in the online bibliography).

In addition, the database includes the contents of the first two Irish History Online projects. These projects placed online the contents of Writings on Irish History (compiled at the time by Máirín Cassidy and Ciaran Nicholson), embracing the Writings for 1936-2006, together with some later publications, and therefore including all material previously published in the printed or microfiche editions of Writings on Irish History, as well as records for more recent material not included in those editions. The second Irish History Online project, which ran from 2006 to 2009, also extended coverage of the Irish diaspora (including foreign publications).


Hierarchical controlled languages are used to index post-1992 publications by subject and place, and an authority list of personal names is also used; we are mapping the indexing used for pre-1993 publications on to these lists, although this process is still under way and subject searches will consequently give useful but not necessarily complete results for pre-1993 publications. 

You can search or browse the subject and place classification trees while carrying out a search of the Bibliography. A help page is available or you can watch our video tutorial on using the subject tree.

Suggestions for additions and amendments to the indexing scheme are welcome; please email us.