Primary sources

Primary sources are original materials created during a specific time by individuals, groups or government agencies. They can take various formats, for example: diaries, images, film, sound recordings, government publications and newspapers. These sources have not been modified by additional interpretation and can be seen as the 'raw' materials of the period, persons or events being studied.

Our Archives and Special Collections pages give details of our rich collections at GCU. The Archives Hub has information on archives collections across the UK.

View our statistics page for census and other social data and our ebooks page for historic book collections from the mid-fifteenth to the early twentieth century.

Social datasets and ephemera
  • Nineteenth Century UK Periodicalsincludes periodicals published between 1800-1900. It will be of interest to historians and students of nineteenth century culture, empire, feminism, sport and leisure, science and medicine.
  • Statistical Accounts of Scotland 1790 and 1830 The two Statistical Accounts of Scotland, covering the 1790s and the 1830s, are among the best contemporary reports of life during the agricultural and industrial revolutions in Europe. Based largely on information supplied by each parish church minister, the original (First) Statistical Account and the New (Second) Statistical Account provide a rich record of a wide variety of topics: wealth, class and poverty; climate, agriculture, fishing and wildlife; population, schools, and the moral health of the people.
  • John Johnson Collection is a unique and quirky archive of printed ephemera in Britain from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. The collection was created by John de Monins Johnson (1882-1956), printer to Oxford University. Digital versions of material ranging from posters, handbills, broadsides, prints and prospectuses are all held in the archive.
  • British periodicals includes the full text of hundreds of periodicals from the late 17th century to the early 20th, with over six million page images. A wide range of different types of periodical are included in this collection - from family magazines and penny weeklies, special interest periodicals, arts & literature reviews, through to professional publications.
Government and parliamentary papers
  • House of Commons parliamentary papers (HCPP) 1688-2003/4 These papers form an incredible historical record of Britain, its colonies and the wider world. HCPP is a massive collection of primary material covering all areas of social, political, economic and foreign policy. The 18th century collection 1688-1834 includes publications created by either the House of Lords or House of Commons including sessional papers, journals and private acts. The 19th century collection includes sessional papers from 1801-1900. More detailon this content. The 20th century collection brings this up to parliamentary session 2003/4.
  • You can also read historical Hansard with debates from both houses of parliament between 1803-2005.
  • Cabinet papers 1915-1984 from the National Archives can be searched or browsed by theme. The collection also includes maps from 1900-2000.
Military archives
  • The serving soldier is a growing and varied digital archive, covering the lives of soldiers from 1899 to 1918 and spanning the Second Boer War, Younghusband Expedition and World War One. Letters, photographs, posters, military booklets and campaign notes create a vivid picture of life as a serving solder.
  • The Wartime News is a collection of reminiscences of veterans of WWll. The magazine was published from 1995-2011. The university library has the collection in print from 2001-2011 which you can access via our Archives and Special Collections team.
  • Welsh voices of the Great War online includes letters and postcards through drawings and photographs, to medals and objects collected from the front, this resource presents a superb collection of material connected to the Great War collected from Welsh families.
  • Sudan archive at Durham. In the year after Sudanese independence, the Sudan Archive was formed to collect and preserve papers from former officials, soldiers, missionaries, businessmen, and individuals who served or lived in the Sudan during the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium period (1899-1955).