The interactive parts of this resource no longer work, but it has been archived so you can continue using the rest of it.

Citizenship home page
Citizen or subject Rise of Parliament Struggle for democracy Brave New World
Quiz page
Introduction | About this project | Main galleries | Document studies | Local history sections | Quizzes | Quick Ref  | Feedback | Images & transcripts |  References | Dates | Metadata | Copyright | Exhibition credits | House of Lords Record Office


‘Citizenship: a history of people, rights and power in Britain’ explores the development of the rights and responsibilities of subjects and citizens throughout a millennium of British history. The broad theme addressed here is the shaping of relations between the individual and the state. Within this, ‘Citizenship’ looks at struggles to attain political, economic and social rights and how the state dealt with them; at the engagement of the population with the state; and at changing definitions of citizenship and citizens.


Cecily Neville and Raby Castle

Powhatan holding court A resource for all lifelong learners (whether with a general interest in history, citizenship or local history, or involved in formal study), the exhibition presents a selection of fascinating documents from The National Archives and Parliamentary Archives, many of them made available online for the first time. Each document is explained and firmly set in its historical context, providing a unique insight into the past as seen through the records of the time.

‘Citizenship’ looks at the changing demands for collective and individual rights as Britain - and, before that, England, Scotland and Wales - ceased to be a static and interdependent feudal society and became an industrialised and then post-industrial one. It explores ideas of what the subject or citizen owed to the state, whether in terms of feudal dues, obedience to the law, or payment of taxes. And it looks at the shifting dividing line between citizens and non-citizens, whether between ‘subjects’ and ‘aliens’ (including Scots in England) in the medieval period or those divided into three groups by the British Nationality Act of 1981.

Charles I
Birmingham The exhibition also addresses the question ‘Citizen of what?’ Britain was created gradually, through conquest, royal marriage alliances, and the Acts of Union of 1707 and 1800. In more recent times, the development of Britain as an imperial power and the subsequent entry of post-imperial Britain into Europe raised new questions regarding the nature of British citizenship.

About this project

‘Citizenship: a history of people, rights and power in Britain’ is a partnership between The National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office) and the House of Lords Record Office (The Parliamentary Archives), funded by the New Opportunities Fund.

The digitised documents presented in this exhibition are held either by The National Archives or by the House of Lords Record Office.

French Revolution
Thomas Paine

Main galleries

You can access the exhibition’s four main galleries by clicking on the icons on the home page, or on the name of the relevant gallery in the menu bar at the head of any of the other pages throughout the exhibition.

The various sections within each gallery are reached from the menu on the left-hand side of each page. To go back to the home page, click on the ‘Citizenship’ icon in the top left-hand corner.

Document studies & local history sections

These are intended for general readers, as well as students and those pursuing a special interest. As with other sections within each gallery, you can reach document studies and local history sections via the menu on the left-hand side of each page.

The local history sections can also be accessed by clicking on the 'Local history' button on the home page and then on the relevant icons on the local history menu page.

Document studies These sections provide resources for people studying particular topics in depth.

Local history sections These pages suggest how citizenship was established on the local as well as the national stage. Birmingham is used as a case study to suggest relevant records for local historians.

Labour Representation Committee poster

Quizzes, Quick Ref & Feedback

Quizzes  Intended to educate as well as entertain, the quizzes can be accessed from the home page and also via the menu on the left-hand side of each page.

Quick Ref  This provides definitions of unfamiliar terms, together with concise details of some of the historical events mentioned in the main text. You can also access the 'Quick Ref' section by clicking on the 'Glossary' links in the text throughout the exhibition.

Feedback  This gives you a chance to tell us what you think of the exhibition.

Images & transcripts

To download an image, click either on the small (‘thumbnail’) reproduction of the image or on the document link below it. If above 120k, the 'byte size' of the image is given below it (the larger images may take some time to download).

To access a transcript (and/or translation), click on the transcript link below the thumbnail. The transcript can also be accessed from the image 'window' - and after looking at the transcript, you can return to the image or to the main text.

Making gunbarrels in Birmingham
Pit-brow girl

The aim has been to provide transcripts that reflect the original documents as accurately as possible. However, documents are not always clearly legible, especially if handwritten, and for research purposes the transcripts are not a substitute for examining the original documents. In the transcripts, obvious typing errors have occasionally been corrected for the sake of clarity and in places extraneous notes have been omitted.

When words in an original document are incomplete or abbreviated, where necessary in the transcript the 'missing' letters have been added in square brackets. Because of the way browsers 'wrap' words at the end of lines, in some places words containing square brackets may be split between lines in printouts or on screen.


Documents that have the prefix HLRO are held by the House of Lords Record Office.

Those that have Catalogue reference prefixes are held by The National Archives (formerly the Public Record Office). The following abbreviations are used in these references: f. (folio), ff. (folios), m. (membrane), p. (page), pp. (pages), q. (quire), and rex rot. (‘king’s rotulet’, a membrane that forms part of the collection of cases concerning offences against the king’s peace on the roll of pleas for the court of King’s Bench).


Women's Land Army
National Health poster


Where relevant, Old Style and New Style dates have been given. In 1752 England adopted the New Style calendar (introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582). New Year’s Day - previously celebrated in the spring - was moved from 25 March to 1 January (a change adopted in Scotland in 1600). Consequently, to avoid ambiguity, dates prior to 1753 falling between 1 January and 25 March are expressed as (for example) 6 January 1648/1649 or 6 January 1648 Old Style calendar, 1649 New Style.


Metadata (information about the images) is given on each page. To see this information, go to 'View', then 'Source', and you will find it in the code for the page.


Demonstration against capital punishment


The majority of documents and images reproduced in this exhibition are either Crown copyright or Parliamentary copyright. For other items reproduced here, we would like to thank the copyright holders for granting us the necessary permissions.

Copyright has expired for some older works, and others are covered by an exception in copyright law that permits publication without permission. In other cases, despite our best efforts we have not always been able to locate the copyright holders. If you believe that any rights that are yours have inadvertently been infringed, we would ask you to contact us and to accept our apologies.

For details of the individual images, see Acknowledgements & copyright details. For private study or noncommercial educational or research purposes as defined in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (as amended), material included in this exhibition may be reproduced without seeking permission. For all other purposes, permission to reproduce or quote from copyright material included in the exhibition must be obtained from The National Archives, the House of Lords Record Office or other copyright holders, as appropriate, and full acknowledgement must be made.

Exhibition credits

A project of The National Archives, in partnership with the House of Lords Record Office, with external funding from the New Opportunities Fund.

Exhibition designed and created by: Anya Langmead

Project management: Marion Wallace

Writing and research: Adrian Ailes, Jenny Bunn, Sean Cunningham, Alan McDougall, Malcolm Mercer, Jason Peacey, David Prior, Richard Smith, Mari Takayanagi, James Travers

Advice, support and additional research: Adrian Ailes, Linda Ali, Amanda Bevan, Vanessa Carr, Paul Carter, John Cassidy, Steve Chamberlain, Ann Claiden, Lynne Cookson, David Crook, James Dowling, John Fisher, Meryl Foster, Maurice Garman, Guy Grannum, Alistair Hanson, Susan Healy, Jacqueline Jenkinson, Hilary Jones, Hilda Kean, Hannes Kleineke, Peter Leek, Eugenia Low, Ann Morton, Stephen O’Connor, Tim Padfield, Bruno Pappalardo, Annie Pinder, Paul Seaward, Ruth Selman, William Spencer, Nigel Taylor, Emma Willson, Tony Woodiwiss

Transcripts and translations: Adrian Ailes, Barbara Arent, Amanda Bevan, Harry Cobb, Lynne Cookson, Sean Cunningham, Malcolm Mercer, David Prior, Stephen O’Connor, James Travers

Reference works: The Batsford Companion to Local History, Chambers Biographical Dictionary, Collins English Dictionary, Hutchinson Softback Encyclopedia, Oxford Encyclopedic English Dictionary, Oxford English Dictionary and Wordsworth Dictionary of British History have been of great value in compiling the Quick Ref/Glossary section

Editor: Peter Leek

Project support: Barbara Arent, Ann Claiden, Lynne Cookson

Proofreaders: Monica Allen, Pandora Kerr Frost

Image production: Grahame Hill, Christian Potter, Lowell Potter, Emma Wallis

Website management: Angela Mullen

Special thanks to David Prior, Mari Takayanagi, Steve Chamberlain, Harry Cobb and Annie Pinder at the House of Lords Record Office and to Andrea Allen at the New Opportunities Fund.

House of Lords Record Office The House of Lords Record Office (The Parliamentary Archives) provides access to the historic records of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, including Acts, journals, committee records, deposited plans, private Bill evidence, administrative papers and Appeal cases. It also provides access to collections of private papers, including those of Lloyd George.


back to top of page