The National Archives is the official archive and publisher for the UK government, and for England and Wales.  We are the guardians of some of our most iconic national documents, dating back over 1,000 years. 

Our 21st-century role is to collect and secure the future of the government record, both digital and physical, to preserve it for generations to come, and to make it as accessible and available as possible. 

In 2011, responsibility for archives across England was transferred to The National Archives from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). We perform the Historical Manuscripts Commission's functions in relation to private records. And our expertise in the effective management, use and re-use of information makes us a valuable resource for 250 government and public sector bodies.

The National Archives is an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice and a government department in its own right.

Discover more about:

What we hold

The National Archives' collection of over 11 million historical government and public records is one of the largest in the world. From Domesday Book to modern government papers and digital files, our collection includes paper and parchment, electronic records and websites, photographs, posters, maps, drawings and paintings.

As a general rule, government records that have been selected for permanent preservation are sent to The National Archives when they are 30 years old, but many are transferred to us earlier under the Freedom of Information Act.

Finding what you're looking for

If you need help to carry out your research and use the archives, please see our section on records. We have research guides to help you find the sources you need, as well tutorials to help you read old documents.

The National Archives does not hold or issue copies of birth, marriage or death certificates. Visit the GOV.UK website to order these certificates.

Our history

Formation of The National Archives

Between 2003 and 2006, four government bodies - each specialising in particular aspects of managing information - joined together to form a single organisation in The National Archives:

  • the Public Record Office, created as a result of the Public Record Office Act 1838 - the national archive of England, Wales and the United Kingdom government, dedicated to preserving key public records and making them accessible to researchers 
  • the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, appointed under Royal Warrant in 1869 to locate and identify manuscripts and private papers of historical interest, reporting on their contents 
  • Her Majesty's Stationery Office, founded in 1786, holder of Crown copyright and official printer of all Acts of Parliament since 1889 
  • the Office of Public Sector Information, created in 2005 following a European Union directive to promote the re-use of information produced and collected by public sector organisations

The National Archives brings together the skills and specialisms needed in today's digital world for managing and preserving government information past, present and future.
We work with all kinds of information from paper and parchment to digital files and datasets, building on over 170 years of pioneering work in managing key public records.

Public Bodies Bill

The Ministry of Justice has published a consultation paper on the proposed reforms to some of its public bodies, which includes The National Archives and Lord Chancellor's Advisory Council.

The proposed legislative changes only involve the consolidation of The National Archives and legally renaming it from 'Public Record Office'. They will not affect any of the work that we do.

The rationale for the reforms is to place The National Archives on a statutory footing and to merge the Advisory Councils into one body to reflect how we currently work. This is a legal technicality, and involves transferring the statutory duties of some of The National Archives' component parts through the Public Bodies Bill to The National Archives itself in order to reflect the existing administrative arrangements.

The consultation closed on 11 October 2011.