Bringing History to Life

History and history writing go hand in hand, and indeed the definition of the discipline is ‘the past as it is described in written documents’. Events which occurred before written records are considered prehistory.

For centuries, students have looked upon history as a rather dry subject, but the internet has changed all that.

We now longer have to rely on history books to learn about the past, as we are now able to consult the contents of any number of archives and libraries ourselves, read primary sources, download high-resolution scans of historical documents and images, and even, as if by magic, leaf through ancient manuscripts on our computer screens.

Whereas historical research used to be the exclusive domain of academics, documentary makers and writers of historical fiction, the internet has turned us all into historians, by researching and writing our own family histories.

The National Archives

Explore a thousand years of history!

Click on the image to visit the National Archives website

The National Archives is the UK government’s official archive, covering British history from the Domesday Book to the present, from parchment and paper scrolls through to digital files and archived websites.

Over 5% of The National Archives’ records have so far been digitised, and additional material is constantly added.

The British Library

For research, inspiration and enjoyment

Click on the image to visit the British Library website

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and the largest library in the world by number of items catalogued. It is estimated to contain around 200 million items.

It is a major research library, with items in many languages and in many formats, both print and digital: books, manuscripts, journals, newspapers, magazines, sound and music recordings, videos, play-scripts, patents, databases, maps, stamps, prints, drawings.

In its collections are around 14 million books, along with substantial holdings of manuscripts and historical items dating back as far as 2000 BC.

The British Library makes a number of images of items within its collections available online. Its Online Gallery gives access to 30,000 images from various medieval books, together with a handful of exhibition-style items in a proprietary format, such as the Lindisfarne Gospels. This includes the facility to “turn the virtual pages” of a few documents, such as Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks.

The British Library on Google Arts and Culture