How to look for Home affairs in the early modern period: state papers domestic 1642-1660

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1. Why use this guide?

This guide tells you:

  • what the state papers domestic 1642-1660 are, and what information they include
  • how to find state papers at The National Archives and elsewhere
  • which finding aids and websites can help you search the various state papers

For any state papers domestic for other dates, refer to these guides instead:

For state papers relating to foreign and Irish affairs see

2. What are the state papers for 1642-1660?

The state papers domestic are the accumulated papers of the secretaries of state relating to home affairs.

They contain information on every aspect of early modern government, including social and economic affairs, law and order, religious policy, crown possessions and intelligence gathering as well as some references to foreign policy.

They may also include private and official letters, musters, reports, commissions and instructions, council orders and correspondence, proclamations, memoranda and draft parliamentary bills.

The state papers for c.1649-1660 covers period of the outbreak of the First Civil War to the Stuart Restoration. They comprise of the papers of the Council of State and associated parliamentary committees, which provided the executive government of the country during the period. Information on many state papers for the last years of the reign of Charles I until his execution in 1649 can also be found in the guide State papers domestic 1547-1649.

Important committees included:

  • the Committee for the Advance of Money
  • the Sequestration Committee
  • the Committee for Compounding with Delinquents
  • the Committee for Plundered Ministers
  • the Committee and Commissioners for Indemnity Committee indemnity

3. How do I search the records?

State papers for this period are only searchable by date on Discovery, our catalogue.  The main finding aids instead are published calendars which can be used to trace a particular individual, place or subject.

The easiest way to search the calendars is to carry out a keyword search on State Papers Online (institutional subscription required or free to view onsite at The National Archives at Kew). This not only searches the calendars but also display digital scans of most (but not all) of the documents described in the calendars.

The calendars are also available online at British History Online (£). If you do not have access to these online sources, you can consult the printed version of the calendar of state papers available at The National Archives and in many major reference libraries.

The printed versions have the added benefit of detailed indexes which can provide additional identifying information to help with your search.

More guidance is given below on how to use the printed calendars for records arranged by parliamentary committee.

Some records of state papers exist in other archives; see below.

4. Council of State (1649-1660)

Papers of the Council of State are in SP 18 for 1649-1660, with Council of State Books and Accounts, 1649-1660 in SP 25.

SP 18 contains information on a variety of standing and ad hoc committees, including the Admiralty committee and commissions, in the form of letters, warrants, and orders.

SP 25 includes similar material including books and accounts as well as parliamentary orders. See also PRO 30/17/33 (September 1658- January 1659).

4.1 Using printed calendars

You can locate most of the printed summaries of records in SP 18 and SP 25), with former references in the Calendar of State Papers Domestic, The Commonwealth, ed MAE Green, 13 volumes, (London, 1875-1886). It also refers to related documents in different record series.

Most documents which appear in the calendar can be ordered using the reference SP 18 and a piece number; this is the Roman numeral at the top of each page which should be converted into Arabic (for example SP 18/28 – Navy commissioners’ papers, 1652).

When an entry in italics and square brackets appears at the end of the summary, a different procedure should be followed: you need to look at the key in the front of the volume for the abbreviation and document reference so you can consult the document.

5. Committee of Both Kingdoms or Derby House Committee (1644-1650)

The Committee of Both Kingdoms or ‘Derby House Committee’ was responsible for the negotiations with the Scots from 1644.The records for Committee of Both Kingdoms or ‘Derby House Committee’ 1644-1650, are in SP 21. After 1649 it was replaced by the Council of State (see above).

See also SP 21/26 and 28 for order and warrant books and SP 63/266 for some references to its sub-committee on Irish affairs.

5.1 Using printed calendars

Committee records within SP 21 are summarised in:

6. Committee for the Advance of Money (1642-1656)

Books and Papers of the Committee for the Advance of Money (1642-1656) are in SP 19.

6.1 Using printed calendars

Use Committee for Advance of Money, 1642-1656, ed MAE Green, 3 parts, (London, 1888) to locate summaries of SP 19.

Volume 1 contains a chronological order of general proceedings (SP19/78-87). Add ‘SP 19’ to an Arabic version of the Roman numeral at the top of the page. For references in square brackets at the end of an entry, substitute ‘SP 19’ for the ‘A’ and add the following number.

The remainder of the calendar contains individual cases with main references given in the right hand margin and lesser material in the left hand margin. For individual cases add SP 19 to the first set of numbers given in both right and left hand margins.

To find out what the abbreviations in the left and right hand columns of the calendar mean, look at the key in the introduction.

Not everything has been included in the printed calendars which exclude references to duplicated material and documents in SP 19/16– 20.

For a more detailed introduction to their arrangement, see the catalogue description of SP 19.

7. Committee and Commissioners for Indemnity (1647-1656)

The books and papers of the Committee and Commissioners for indemnity are in SP 24, 1647-1656.

7.1 Using printed calendars

Use the Calendars of State Papers Domestic Series of the Commonwealth which refers to SP 24.

7.2 Other finding aids 

Note that these records are also partially indexed in IND 1/8899–8903. See our catalogue or the paper version of the series SP 24 at The National Archives.

8. Committee for Compounding with Delinquents, Royalist Composition papers (1643-1664)

The records of the Committee for Compounding with Delinquents, Royalist Composition papers are in SP 23, 1643-1660.

The Royalist Composition Papers are the particulars of the estates and personal property of delinquents taken on oath as part of the compounding process and can be found in this record series. Royalists then pay a fine to the parliamentary authorities to recover their (sequestered) estates if they pledged not to take up arms (again) against Parliament.

See SP 28 for related material concerning Parliamentary County Committees.

8.1 Using printed calendars

Use the Committee for Compounding with Delinquents, etc, 1643-1660, ed MAE Green, 5 parts, 1889-1893) to locate summary of records in SP 23.

Alternatively you can access the calendars of the Compounding Committee on British History online (£).

Not all relevant documents are detailed in the calendar entry. The right hand column gives references to those mentioned specifically in the text, while the left hand column refers to related documents not mentioned in the calendar entry. For individual cases add SP 23 to the first set of numbers given in both right and left hand margins.

There is also a one volume alphabetical printed index to the Royalist Composition papers,covering A-F (SP 23/61-227), which includes names not included in the main calendar.

For the index for G-Z, and for place name indexes covering England and Wales in SP 23/61-173, see the front note in the volume and the printed version of the catalogue list for OBS 1/629–636.

9. Sequestration Committee (1643-1653)

This dealt with the confiscation of royalist estates to 1644. Its Books and Papers, 1643-1653, are in SP 20.

9.1 Using printed calendars

Use the Calendar of State Papers Charles I (before 1649) which describes some of the records in SP 20. You can also use the Calendar of the Committee for Compounding with Delinquents as above, since this replaced the Sequestration Committee and took over many of its cases.

9.2 Other finding aids

SP 20 is also indexed by a one volume published index to the sequestration of delinquents’ estates (covering SP 20/1-8). These are selective indexes only.

9.3 Searching our catalogue

A selection of records within SP 20 is searchable by keywords in our catalogue. Try searching by topic, place or name.

10. Other relevant records series

Other relevant related records (which you can access on State Papers Online – institutional subscription required or free to view onsite at The National Archives at Kew) include:

  • Committee for Plundered Ministers 1642-1653 in SP 22 (see also SP 23/22 and SP 28/7)
  • Trustees for Crown Lands and Fee Farm Rents: Books, 1650-1660 in SP 26
  • Parchment Documents, 1650-1659, in SP 27
  • Commonwealth Exchequer papers, 1640-1674 in SP 28 – a particularly important collection
  • Bills and answers against defaulting accountants, Charles II, in E 113 (for public monies received on both sides)
  • Depositions by commission in E 134 which includes interesting depositions, for example those relating to administration of the army
  • Parliamentary surveys in E 317 which includes records relating to sales of crown and church property
  • Admiralty and Navy Commissioners records in ADM 2, ADM 3, ADM 7 and SP 46/96-98, 114-121
  • ‘Shaftesbury Papers’ in PRO 30/24

11. Records held in other archives

Many relevant records (including the Thomason Tracts) are in collections held at The British Library.

The state papers were frequently treated as private property by secretaries of state many of whom incorporated them into their private collections on leaving office. Therefore, you may find state papers held elsewhere.

Try searching our catalogue to see if there are any relevant listed entries held in other archives or private collections.

12. Further reading

Search The National Archives’ bookshop to see whether any of the publications below may be available to buy. Alternatively, look in The National Archives’ library catalogue to see what is available to consult at Kew.

GE Aylmer and JS Morrill, The Civil War and Interregnum, Sources for Local Historians (published for the Standing Conference for Local History by the Bedford Square Press of the National Council of Social Service, 1979)

GE Aylmer, The State’s Servants: the Civil Service of the English Republic 1649-1660 (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973)

CH Firth and RS Rait, Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660 (HMSO, 1911)

Guide reference: Domestic Information Research Guide 17