How to look for State papers domestic 1714-1782

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1. Introduction

The State Papers Domestic are the accumulated papers of the secretaries of state relating to domestic affairs from c1547 to c1782, at which date the business of the two secretaries was divided between the home and foreign departments. Papers of the Home Secretary, continuing those relating to domestic affairs up to 1782, are found in the separate Home Office series.

All three main series for these reigns, SP 35– SP 37, can be seen on microfilm in the Map and Large Document Room in The National Archives.

Alternatively, you can also view these records (apart from SO 1 and CO 5) and calendars via State Papers Online (institutional subscription required). Many are also searchable on State Papers online as well as via our catalogue.

2. George I

The main series is SP 35, covering 1714 to 1727. Most notably the series includes:

  • records of the Atterbury plot, 1722-1723
  • material on the aftermath of the first Jacobite rebellion
  • records of early Cabinet meetings
  • papers on finance and trade affairs (including the South Sea Bubble)

SP 35 contains 78 volumes. SP 35/77-SP 35/78 are described in detail in the paper series list held in the Map and Large Document Room in The National Archives at Kew. There is a four-volume typed calendar with an index of persons and places, covering SP 35/1-SP 35/76 only. The typed calendar and the index have been published by the List and Index Society (volumes 136, 144, 155, 165 and 173, 1977-1981).

The reign of George I was notable for the development of Cabinet government. Records relating to ministerial meetings in the reign of George I (List and Index Society, volume 224, 1987) provides lists of office holders and lists of meetings (giving the date, type, those present and chief topic), with references to documents in The National Archives. It includes documents in SP 35, SP 43, SP 44 and SP 45.

3. George II

The main series is SP 36, covering 1727-1760. All aspects of government are reflected in the contents, including:

  • papers concerning the Jacobite Rising of 1745 (SP 36/65-SP 36/104 cover the period 1745-1747, while SP 36/105 covers 1747-1748; see also SP 36/162-SP 36/163 for later activity)
  • domestic intelligence
  • law and order
  • some orders in Council and some Cabinet minutes

SP 36 contains 163 volumes. Refer to Discovery, our catalogue, for descriptions of SP 36/1-SP 36/72. There is also a four-volume manuscript list of the whole series, kept in the Map and Large Document Room in The National Archives.

4. George III

The main class is SP 37, covering 1760-1783 only: for material relating to George III’s reign after 1783, consult the relevant Home Office series. Prominent subjects in the series are:

  • finance and trade
  • colonial policy (especially with regard to America)
  • law and order (including the Gordon riots)
  • John Wilkes and Liberty
  • correspondence with the Treasury
  • Irish and Scottish affairs

In addition to the standard list, SP 37 is calendared (for 1760-1775 only) in the Calendar of Home Office papers of the reign of George III, eds. Joseph Redington and Richard Arthur Roberts, 4 volumes (London, 1878-1899). The calendars (which incorrectly refer to the Home Office in the title) provide summaries of the documents. Military commissions are omitted, except those issued to commanders in chief, governors of colonies, etc. For the period after 1776 documents can be traced in the manuscript lists, which also include references to material not appearing in the calendars. Care is needed in using the calendars as some obsolete references may be difficult to match up with current ones.

The calendars include references to relevant documents in SO 1, SP 41-SP 42, SP 44, SP 47, SP 54, SP 63 and CO 5.

5. Supplementary series

Other series cover the whole or part of the period:

  • SP 43 contains the correspondence between the secretaries of state written from Whitehall and Hanover during the absences of George I and George II
  • SP 44 contains entry books. These include copies for out letters (royal and secretarial), warrants, reports, licences, etc. They cover all aspects of policy including naval and military, legal and ecclesiastical affairs
  • SP 41, State Papers Military , covers military policy and expeditions, as does SP 87, Military Expeditions. Many items in SP 41 are included in An alphabetical guide to certain War Office and other military records (PRO Lists and Indexes, LIII, 1939).
  • SP 42 covers naval policy
  • SP 54 covers Scotland

For papers after 1782 see the series under the HO lettercode, especially HO 42, which continues the main correspondence of the State Papers Domestic.

6. Further reading

See the paper Introductory Notes to each series list in the Map and Large Document Room.

CM Andrews, Guide to the materials for American history, to 1783, in the Public Record Office of Great Britain, volume I (Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1912)

JM Beattie, The English Court in the Reign of George I (CUP, 1967)

JC Sainty, ed, Officials of the secretaries of state, 1660-1782 (University of London, Institute of Historical Research, 1973)

H Smith, Georgian Monarchy: Politics and Culture, 1714-1760 (CUP, 2006)

Guide reference: Domestic Information Research Guide 19