Second World War ration book (BT 131/40)

Don't be intimidated by the idea of getting your hands on the 'real thing'. The National Archives has a number of resources to help you work with original documents.

Apart from obtaining a readers ticket, the first thing you will need to know is the correct way to handle documents to ensure they are not damaged.

To learn more about ordering documents and how to find what you are looking for using our catalogue, see our helpful step-by-step videos. Always bear in mind that our collections contain many millions of items and finding what you are looking for is serious research task all on its own.

Documents from the 19th and 20th century are generally easy to work with, but many documents written between 1500 and 1800 can be very difficult to read even when they are in English. Our palaeography guide can help decipher hard to read texts.

Even older documents are often written in Latin and we have guides to beginners and advanced medieval Latin as well as a specific guide to Latin palaeography.

You can bring your own camera into the Archives to take your own images of documents which you are then free to use in the classroom, though we also have copying machines for the use of readers and additionally offer a professional service.