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Guide reference: Overseas Records Information 11
Last updated: 28 June 2004

1. Why use this guide?

Use this guide if you are looking for original sources on the Easter Rising held at The National Archives.

On Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, members of the Irish Volunteers and the Citizen's Army occupied buildings in Dublin and proclaimed an Irish Republic.

2. Essential information

The records at The National Archives have detailed information on the political and military activities as well as the events leading up to and following the Easter Rising.

They contain detailed information on some key figures of the Rising.

Our catalogue contains descriptions of our records. Very few of the records described in this guide are available online.

To view most of the documents that you find references for, you will need to either visit The National Archives at Kew or pay for copies to be sent to you. Alternatively, you can pay for research.

Many relevant records are held in local or other archives. Search the Access to Archives database to see what records are held elsewhere.

3. General search tips

Look for mentions in this guide of:

These will help you to focus your search for relevant records using the advanced search option in our catalogue.

Search for relevant records in our catalogue using keywords or a combination of keywords such as:

  • Irish AND rebellion
  • Ireland AND rebellion
  • Easter AND Rising
  • Disturbances AND Ireland
  • Prisoners AND Irish
  • Irish AND nationalist

For general tips on searching the catalogue, use the help page.

4.Key record series

You may find the following record seriesA grouping of records held by The National Archives, based on common function or subject. particularly useful - click on the links to find out more about them:

  • WO 35 - includes records of army activities in Ireland including the maintenance of order during the Troubles (1916-1922)
  • WO 32 - you can find Commander in Chief reports and other reports about the rebellion
  • CO 904 - records of the British administration in Ireland prior to 1922
  • CO 903 - reports of political activities in Ireland during the period 1885-1919

You can also browse these records to find document referencesA unique set of letters and numbers identifying a document in The National Archives..

5. Intelligence reports and inquiries

The records in CO 904, known as the Dublin Castle Records, are a major source of information for the Easter Rising. In particular, the following may be of interest: 

  • CO 904/23, part 2 - detailed analysis of the numbers and arms of the Irish Volunteers
  • CO 904/23, part 3 -reports from British agents 'Chalk' and 'Granite' who were placed within the Irish Volunteers
  • CO 904/193-216 - intelligence profiles of leading nationalists, including figures like Eammon De Valera, later President of Ireland. These date mainly from 1917 but include people who were involved prior to 1917

Records from the Royal Commission enquiring into the events of the Easter Rising are in HO 45/10810/312350 and PRO 30/67/31.

You can also search our catalogue using keywords for intelligence reports and inquiries within HO 45 and HO 144.

6. Courts martial and prisoners

6.1 Courts martial records

The following records relate to courts martial following the Easter Rising. 

  • CO 903/19 - intelligence records listing 171 people tried by courts martial
  • WO 71/344-349 - records of the 15 men executed between 3 and 12 May 1916 including evidence against the defendants, their statements and proclamations
  • WO 35/67 - reports and inquiries into the execution of prisoners
  • WO 35/94-119 - lists of civilians prosecuted, arranged by case number. Use the index in WO 35/120 to identify the relevant case number first.
  • WO 35/97 - reports of prosecutions of civilians. Search WO 35/97 by name in the advanced search option of our catalogue
  • WO 35/132 - a register of cases tried by courts martial

6.2 Prisoners

 HO 45 and HO 144 contain records relating to nationalist prisoners, mainly in gaols in England. You can search our catalogue using terms such as 'Irish AND nationalist' or 'Irish AND prisoners' within HO 45 and HO 144.

7. Policy and political reactions

Use the advanced search option in our catalogue to identify relevant Cabinet papers in the following record series.

  • CAB 16 - Committee of Imperial Defence, Ad Hoc Sub-committees
  • CAB 21  - registered files (viewable online)
  • CAB 23 - War Cabinet and Cabinet minutes (viewable online)
  • CAB 24 - War Cabinet and Cabinet: Memoranda (viewable online)
  • CAB 27 - War Cabinet and Cabinet: Miscellaneous Committees

When you search our catalogue, try using the keyword 'Ireland' and restrict your search to the dates 1916-1922.

Also use the advanced search option to search by date within ZHC 2 for parliamentary debates (Hansard) which contains debates of the British Parliament in relation to Ireland. To do this, enter an asterisk [*] as your keyword, date(s) in the date range field and enter ZHC 2 with the reference field. 

Alternatively you can search for copies of the Hansard online (£There may be a charge for accessing this information. Searching indexes may be free.). 

9. Further reading

Michael Foy and Brian Barton, Easter Rising 1916 (Stroud: Sutton, 2000)

Brian Button, From Behind a Closed Door: secret court martial records of the Easter rising (Blackstaff Press, 2002)

Guide reference: Overseas Records Information 11

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