Frequently asked questions

Where can I find out more about a reference in The National Archives?

The following series are those which are principally linked to from sources on British History Online. Follow the individual links to find out more information on a source in The National Archives' Discovery catalogue.

Selected series from The National Archives

+ CO Colonial Records   Records of the Colonial Office, Commonwealth and Foreign and Commonwealth Offices, Empire Marketing Board, and related bodies relating to the administration of Britain's colonies. Comprises records of: Board of Trade responsibilities for colonial affairs before 1801; Chief Clerk's and General Departments; Correspondence with the colonies, entry books and registers of correspondence; Acts, ordinances and proclamations from the colonies; Government gazettes from the colonies; Sessional papers from the colonies; Local bodies and other colonial miscellanea; Confidential print Emigration departments; Dominions Division Economic departments; Social Service Department; Defence departments; Prisoners of War and Civilian Internees Department; Information Department; Welfare and students department; Communications Department; International Relations Department; Research Department; Accounts Department; Patronage and personnel divisions; Legal Department; Colonial research councils; Private office papers and private collections; Constitutional commissions, etc.; Advisory and research committees, etc.; Empire and colonial marketing boards; Irish Office and Northern Ireland Office; Chartered companies; West Indies Development and Welfare Organisation; Appeals to the Prize Court.
+ CO 1 Privy Council and related bodies: America and West Indies, Colonial Papers (General Series)   Col. Papers This series relates to the American and West Indian colonies and includes some records of the Board of Trade. It ends virtually in 1688, after which date most of the American papers are to be found in CO 5, and the West Indian ones in CO 318 and under the various colonies.
+ SP Records assembled by the State Paper Office, including papers of the Secretaries of State up to 1782   Records of the secretaries of state as organised by the State Paper Office. State papers are arranged into geographical catagories (domestic (ie England and Wales), Scotland, Ireland and foreign) within which there are usually series by reign or place. There are also series of printed gazettes, pamphelts, maps and catalogues. The papers mainly date from the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547) to 1782. SP 72, SP 73 and SP 74 are numbers not used.
+ SP 10 Secretaries of State: State Papers Domestic, Edward VI   State Papers Domestic Edward VI The archives of the principal secretaries of state during the reign of Edward VI (particularly Sir William Petre and Sir William Cecil) as they survived in official custody. The papers are evidence of the great variety of business passing through the secretaries' office, and include much material put before the Privy Council. The series comprises both individual papers now bound as volumes and documents that were originally volumes in their own right. They were brought together in the State Paper Office in the nineteenth century for the purpose of publication in calendar form. The majority of the papers were rebound in date order in the 1860s.
+ SP 11 Secretaries of State: State Papers Domestic, Mary I   SP Dom. Mary The archives of the principal secretaries of state during the reign of Mary I, as they survived in official custody. The papers are evidence of the great variety of business passing through the secretaries' office, and the presentation of the most important matters for consideration by the Queen and the Privy Council. The documents were brought together in the State Paper Office in the nineteenth century for the purpose of publication in calendar form.
+ SP 12 Secretaries of State: State Papers Domestic, Elizabeth I   SP Dom., Eliz. SP Dom., Elizabeth The archives of the principal secretaries of state of Elizabeth I, as they survived in official custody. The papers are evidence of the great variety of business passing through the secretaries' office, and the presentation of the most important matters for consideration by Elizabeth I and the Privy Council. The series also includes items from outside the reign of Elizabeth I, where either the major part of the item referred to that reign, or the document in question was a later transcript of an Elizabethan document. The series also contains many larger items of considerable significance including certificates of musters 1569-1573, Admiralty warrants, returns of aliens in London and Southwark in 1571, valuations of benefices throughout England and Wales in 1574, lists of justices of peace in liberi pacis, etc. Also includes some papers relating to the English/ Scottish border (originally in SP 59) These State Paper Office documents were brought together in the nineteenth century for the purpose of publication in calendar form. Most of the papers have been rearranged and rebound in chronological order.
+ SP 13 Secretaries of State: State Papers Domestic, Elizabeth I: Large Documents   SP Dom., Eliz. SP Dom., Elizabeth The archives of the principal secretaries of state of Elizabeth I, as they survived in official custody. Documents similar to those in SP 12 but too large to be bound into the standard volumes. Many of the parchment records are private, relating to land and property (leases, sales, accounts, rentrolls, etc). The dean and chapter of St Paul's appear regularly, and there is some material relating to estates inherited as a minor by Edward Russell, Earl of Bedford. Official papers relating to defence are also frequent. Other items of more than private significance include papers on Archbishop John Whitgift's reforms of the ecclesiastical courts in 1587. The records include a few items from the reigns of Edward VI, Mary and James I, as well as some Border Papers and documents from the Channel Islands. Most of the records have been arranged in chronological order.
+ SP 14 Secretaries of State: State Papers Domestic, James I   SP Dom., Jas I The archives of the principal secretaries of state during the reign of James I, as they survived in official custody. The papers are evidence of the great variety of business passing through the secretaries' office, and the presentation of the most important matters for consideration by James I and the Privy Council. The series includes what was formerly a separate series of Scottish Papers. The volumes are of two types: contemporary volumes, and volumes of individual letters and papers, from various sources, sorted and bound in the nineteenth century for the purpose of publication in calendar form in the Calendar of State Papers Domestic, James I. The date sequence includes the Conway Papers (a private collection of state papers apparently removed from official custody by Sir Edward Conway, Secretary of State from 1623-1628) which returned to the State Paper Office in 1857. The Conway Papers were split up and bound in the relevant date order in SP 14, but were not incorporated into the first two volumes of the Calendar. The contemporary volumes include Exchequer papers, Gunpowder Plot papers, articles of union between England and Scotland, charters of Trinity House and the Cinque Ports, records concerning lands given for superstitious uses in London and Middlesex, a survey of the Navy in 1618, musters of troops for Count Mansfeldt's expedition in 1624, proclamations, treatises, lists of justices of the peace, registers of aliens in London, Sir Walter Raliegh's 'Prerogative of Parliaments' , etc. The records are generally arranged in chronological order, though addenda were added until 1859. Those addenda inserted into existing volumes were marked as items with a letter or an asterisk (e.g. SP 14/1, no 28A; SP 14/1, no 34*).
+ SP 14/141 Grant Book   Grant Bk Abstracts of patent rolls, refered to in calendar as Grant Book
+ SP 14/216 Gunpowder Plot book   G. Plot Bk. The Gunpowder Plot: a collection of correspondence, depositions and papers, in two parts. Each document was published in precis in the Calendar of State Papers Domestic, James I, under its relevant date. (Saferoom document).
+ SP 15 Secretaries of State: State Papers Domestic, Edward VI - James I: Addenda   Additional material from the reigns of Edward VI, Mary I, Elizabeth I and James I, not known when SP 10-SP 14 were created, assembled both from different series of records kept by the State Paper Office itself including Border Papers and Channel Island Papers, and from entirely separate collections not previously connected to the State Paper Office. The series was formed Most of the disparate material was sorted and bound up in volume form between the 1850s and the 1870s, except for five original items within the series which remained separate. The Border Papers include correspondence of both the Council of the North and the Wardens of the Marches (with both the Scottish and English courts) and so include papers relating to the Northern Rebellion of 1569-1570. Other documents in the series are unofficial papers addressed to residents abroad, containing domestic information, and similar papers, written from abroad, by travellers or English Catholic fugitives living in France and the Low Countries. In addition, the series includes papers redated from the earlier chronological arrangement for SP 10 - SP 14, following further investigation, certain papers from 'Exchequer sacks', and documents removed from the Conway Papers including a collection of holograph letters from Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, to Elizabeth I. The former Conway Papers for the reign of James I now in this series fill many gaps in the State Paper Office's records. The records are arranged in chronological order.
+ SP 16 Secretaries of State: State Papers Domestic, Charles I   SP Dom., Chas I The records of the Secretaries of State during the reign of Charles I comprising correspondence and records of their other responsibilities. Day-to-day management of the Privy Council produced proclamations, orders and council correspondence, while the secretaries' custody of the Signet involved the accumulation of petitions to the King, and the resulting signs manual which initiated the long process leading up to the issue of money or a grant. As well as the individual letters and papers, now bound into volumes, the series contains a large number of original bundles or volumes of very varying origins and subjects. Many of these relate to musters; to the navy and the Admiralty; to various commissions and committees; to crown lands; to taxes; and to various courts, particularly the Court of High Commission for the exercise of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The series also includes papers relating to trials including the state trials of Charles I and Archbishop Laud, and of the Earl of Castlehaven for rape and sodomy. The majority of the documents were, until the mid-nineteenth century, kept in several series (Domestic, Admiralty, Sherburn and Channel Islands, and perhaps others as well) in the State Paper Office. The series also includes Conway Papers, and the Morton Papers (family letters, etc, 1625-1638), the origin of which is unknown. In addition, official and even private papers from other high officers of state, such as the Lord High Admiral, Attorney-General Heath, and Archbishop Laud, which were for some reason in the custody of the State Paper Office, were sorted into the the series. The documents were brought together in the nineteenth century for the purpose of publication in calendar form. The various series of individual letters and papers were resorted as far as possible into one chronological order, and rebound in that order,.
+ SP 17 Secretaries of State: State Papers Domestic, Charles I: Large Documents   SP Dom., Chas I Secretaries of State: State Papers Domestic, Charles I: Large Documents. The records of the Secretaries of State during the reign of Charles I comprising correspondence and records of their other responsibilities. A collection of parchment and other documents similar to those in SP 16 but too large to be bound into the standard volumes in that series, including funeral certificates for the College of Arms, paper drafts, legal instruments, etc.
+ SP 29 Secretaries of State: State Papers Domestic, Charles II   SP Dom., Car II SP Dom., Chas II Secretaries of State: State Papers Domestic, Charles II. An assortment of letters, papers and petitions received by the Secretaries of State in their domestic capacity during the reign of Charles II. The series includes papers the secretaries accumulated for business purposes or drafted for public use or personal reference, petitions to the King for which, as custodians of the Signet, they procured the sign manual if a grant ensued, and pleas for pardon. The series includes Admiralty business papers, journals and memoranda of Sir Joseph Williamson (Secretary of State 1674-1679), fees books, a draft charter of the Merchant Adventurers, an Admiralty entry book and ships' licences, military commissions, Post Office labels, a list of royal signings, Nonconformist preaching licences, and Titus Oates and Rye House Plot papers. A collection was mostly put together at the State Paper Office at Whitehall by Sir Joseph Williamson who was also keeper of the records. Subsequent additions derived chiefly from secretaries Sir Leoline Jenkins, 1680-1684, and Edward, Earl of Conway, 1681-1683. The series was subsequently augmented from other series: Admiralty, Board of Trade, Foreign, Miscellaneous, Scottish, Dunkirk, Tangiers, petitions and undated papers. The Secretaries of State took charge of safe guarding the peace through the appointment of deputy lieutenants, sheriffs and magistrates and the authorizing of musters. They were in constant receipt of information procured or volunteered, or from opened letters, concerning nonconformists, religious and political, and were able to control the dissemination of news. As managers of Privy Council business they oversaw the issue of proclamations and orders in council. The strict chronological sequence is interrupted by Admiralty business papers, arranged separately, and by some original volumes or bundles. The arrangement of petitions, dated or undated, varies within the series.
+ SP 30 Secretaries of State: State Papers Domestic, Charles II: Large Documents   SP Dom., Car II SP Dom., Chas II Secretaries of State: State Papers Domestic, Charles II: Large Documents. An assortment of letters, papers and petitions received by the Secretaries of State in their domestic capacity during the reign of Charles II. Documents similar to those in SP 29 but too large to be bound into the standard volumes. Most of the documents are parchment and consist of military commissions, certificates of election of bishops, draft nonconformist licences, royal game preservation orders and fee farm surrenders to the King by corporations. Exchequer receipt rolls are (unusually) included, as well as a large number of pamphlets.
+ SP 31 Secretaries of State: State Papers Domestic, James II   SP Dom., Jas II Secretaries of State: State Papers Domestic, James II. An assortment of documents received by the Secretaries of State in their domestic capacity during the reign of James II, including the suppression of the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion.
+ SP 32 Secretaries of State: State Papers Domestic, William and Mary   SP Dom. William and Mary Secretaries of State: State Papers Domestic, William and Mary. An assortment of documents relating to domestic matters, including in-letters, petitions, business papers and memoranda, left in the State Paper Office by retiring Secretaries of State during the reign of William and Mary (from December 1694 that of William III). The material covers a wide range of individual applications regarding patronage, passports, trials, evidence of censorship and intelligence gathering, newsletters and printed royal speeches to Parliament and votes of the Commons. The Secretaries of State during this period were the Earls of Shrewsbury and Nottingham, Viscount Sydney, Sir John Trenchard, Sir William Trumball, James Vernon, the Earls of Jersey and Manchester, and Sir Charles Hedges. The arrangement is generally chronological, though usually undated papers, believed to belong to a particular year, are added after the dated papers for December of the same year.
+ SP 33 Secretaries of State: State Papers Domestic, William and Mary: Large Documents   SP Dom. William and Mary Mainly duplicate parchment assessments of sixteen English counties for a statutory subsidy granted to the crown in 1692 for the war against King Louis XIV of France: the first land tax. These duplicates originated in the Exchequer. Some miscellaneous records originated from the Exchequer in the departments of the Auditor General and the Clerk of the Pells, including certificates for post-fines, payable to the crown through the sheriffs on the alienation of lands. There are also a few miscellaneous records originating in the Secretaries of State's offices, and some army or marine commissions. Many of the duplicate assessments add the names of the collectors, but none list the persons assessed.
+ SP 34 Secretaries of State: State Papers Domestic, Anne   SP Dom., Anne Mainly incoming letters of the Secretaries of State in their domestic capacity, and other papers collected by them in the reign of Queen Anne and left in the State Paper Office. The series includes some copies of out-letters, many petitions, regular intelligence reports owing to the war with France, and much material relating to crime - law and order is a major theme of the series. Also in the series are addresses of thanks, returns of papist and non-jurors, and law officers' opinions. Petitions (often for the Queen's clemency) sometimes have evidence endorsed about the action taken, or have accompanying documentation. Criminal matters are also represented by Newgate gaol deliveries, examinations, depositions, and reports of arrest and trials. The series also reflects the problems of prisoners of war, seditious talk, Jacobite treason and secret armament.
+ SP 40 Signet Office: Warrant Books   Warrant Bk Entry books of warrants to the Exchequer passed under the Signet (the seal in the control of the Secretaries of State, which conceivably belonged to the Signet Office), for payment of recurring sums (dormant warrants) and single sums, to people on crown service, and a volume apparently kept as a precedent book by people in the employ of the Secretaries of State, containing official letters on domestic, Border, Irish, Scottish, and foreign affairs, copies of personal letters from Elizabeth I (to Henry Sidney on the death of his daughter), appointments, commissions, warrants for payment, and calculations on the coinage. This series was previously known as State Papers Domestic Warrant Books.
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