Nature and Scope


Extract of the Bargrave Diary, 1645. Image courtesy of Canterbury Cathedral Archives

This collection brings together documents and objects from seven different archives and libraries to offer insights into the lived experience in England from 1500-1700. The documentary evidence here can offer a range of perspectives from prominent families to 'ordinary' people in order to see how this pivotal epoch in English history was lived across societies and regions. Rather than dealing specifically with the great political and religious upheavals of these years, the project aims to look at the everyday happenings of people in different parts of England.

These experiences are revealed through a wide range of materials including legal records, family correspondence, administrative records, wills, inventories and commonplace books among others. There is a strong material culture element to this project with the inclusion of images of everyday objects used in early modern households. The different collections of documents enable a regional comparison, for example with court records from the South East, London, the West Midlands and the North West.

The material is sourced from the following libraries and archives:

  • The British Library
  • Canterbury Cathedral Archives
  • Lambeth Palace Library
  • London Metropolitan Archives
  • The National Archives, UK
  • The Newberry Library
  • The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust



Early Modern England: Society, Culture & Everyday Life, 1500-1700 consists of the following twenty-four collections. You can read more about the nature and scope of each collection in the Collection Guides.

  • Commonplace books
  • Stratford-upon-Avon Peculiar Court: Volume of original wills
  • Stratford-upon-Avon Borough Sessions: Legal Records
  • Stratford-upon-Avon Borough: Administrative Records
  • Books from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
  • Papers of Anthony Bacon
  • Shrewsbury Papers
  • Talbot Papers
  • Canterbury Quarter Session Papers
  • Throckmorton and Bargrave Diaries
  • Canterbury French Church Records
  • Charter, Warden Records and Manuscripts from Canterbury
  • Objects
  • Middlesex Sessions of the Peace
  • Court of Judicature / Corporation of London: Great Fire of London
  • City of London Alehouse Registration
  • Wood Family Papers
  • Books from the Newberry Library
  • Manuscripts from the Newberry Library
  • John Locke and Ashley Cooper Papers
  • Hearth Tax Records
  • Edward Herbert Papers
  • Lord Chamberlain's Department: Events and Licensing
  • Duchy of Lancaster: Assizes and Quarter Sessions


Key Themes

The documents have been tagged with key themes such as Law and order, Possessions, Work and employment, Health and medicine, and Politics and government. You can read more about the different themes and where to find key material relating to these subjects in the Thematic Guides.


Material Types

There are various different types of document featured in the collection and you can read more about the different documents and how they are sometimes used by scholars in the Document Type Guides.


Additional features

Early Modern England: Society, Culture and Everyday Life, 1500-1700 includes some excellent features to aid your research.

  • Handwritten text technology: This technology enables you to search for words and phrases within manuscript documents. Find out more about how this works at the Palaeography and HTR page.
  • How to study material culture: Watch a video on how to study objects with leading scholar Tara Hamling.
  • Contextual essays: These essays are written by leading academics of the period and offer information on the collections and how to use them.
  • Chronology: There is an interactive chronology to help contextualise the documents in the events of the era.