Skip to Main Content
Michigan State University

Eighteenth-Century Studies: Online Resources: 9. British Government documents

This is a guide to both free web sites and electronic primary resources we have purchased or subscribe to on/about the long 18th century. Last updated 06-05-2023

9. British Government documents

Colonial America, Modules I-4

The first module of Colonial America documents the early history of the colonies, and includes founding charters, material on the effects of 1688’s Glorious Revolution in North America, records of piracy and seaborne rivalry with the French and Spanish, and copious military material from the French and Indian War of 1756-63.

This module focuses on the 1760s and 1770s and the social and political protest that led to the Declaration of Independence, including legal materials covering the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party. It is also particularly rich in material relating to military affairs and Native Americans.

This module charts the upheavals of the 1770s and 1780s which saw the throwing off of British rule in the Thirteen Colonies. Contents include volumes of intercepted letters between colonists, the military correspondence of the British commanders in the field and material produced by the Ordnance Office and the office of the Secretary at War, as well as two copies of the ‘Dunlap’ edition of the Declaration of Independence printed on the night of the 4th-5th July 1776.

The material in this module consists mostly of the text of acts of assembly and the minutes of assembly and council sessions, building up to a comprehensive picture of the colonies’ legislative and political evolution.

The Gazette

The Gazette has a long and established history, and has been at the heart of British public life for almost 350 years.  During the 17th century publishing was thought to endanger national security, and this led to a climate in which the printing of any news not pertaining to the coverage of events aboard, natural disasters, official royal declarations and the most sensationalist of crime reporting was largely prohibited.  During the plague of 1665 the court in exile in Oxford to escape it began the Oxford Gazette.  This became the London Gazette afterwards, the first official journal of record and the newspaper of the Crown and Executive, an authoritative, reliable source of news. From 1665.  Published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, the British government printer.  This web site also includes the contents of the Edinburgh Gazette (reliably from 1793, but also some information from 1706), and the Belfast Gazette (from 1699).

Prize Papers Online: Atlas

A resource with examples of research on the maritime sectors of early modern and modern Europe and North America. This resource is dedicated to showing the richness of the Prize Papers, considered to be one of the world’s most important maritime archives. In the course of its many naval engagements the British Royal Navy seized numerous enemy ships. Documents pertaining to tens of thousands of these seized ships (“prizes”) have been preserved. Every ship's file contains at least one document in English: transcriptions of the interrogations by the Prize Courts of the captain and other crew members aboard ships taken as lawful prizes. The Prize Papers Online: Atlas makes available a sample of the Prize Papers’ interrogations. Providing a wealth of information about ships and their crews, the interrogations make up a crucial portion of the Prize Paper Archive, providing unprecedented insights into the workings of the maritime sector during the Age of Sail.

Proceedings of the Old Bailey London 1674-1913

"This is a fully searchable online edition of the largest body of texts detailing the lives of non-elite people ever published, containing accounts of over 100,000 criminal trials held at London's central criminal court." Also includes historical background information and a bibliography (contains citations on: publishing history; associated records; crime, criminal justice and punishment; Old Bailey Courthouse; London and hinterlands; community histories; gender and the proceedings; and general and useful web sites.)

British government documents

This link goes to an online research guide whose purpose is to describe British Parliamentary documents available in the M.S.U. Libraries in paper, micro, and electronic formats, and to provide directions for their location and use. It is primarily useful for research using 18th through 21st century documents. During the rise and zenith of the Empire the British government was often a progressive model for the entire world in its investigations of the economic and social problems associated with modernization. Those wishing to research topics such as the impact of industrialization, progressive enfranchisement of the middle classes, the history of industrial regulation, and growth of the governmental machinery of the welfare state have a wealth of primary source material here. Too, there is a great deal of information to be found in the Parliamentary papers about the world wars, colonial issues, exploration, trade, products, and peoples of the British Colonies.

Georgian Papers Online

Catalogue of the Georgian Papers held in the Royal Archives and the Royal Library at Windsor Castle.This catalogue currently contains descriptions and digitised images of material dating from the reigns of George III to William IV, including personal letters, diaries, account books and records of the Royal Household.