How to look for records of... Napoleonic Wars

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

How many are online?

  • None

This is a brief guide to researching British government and military records of the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleonic War records are wide-ranging, sporadic and are kept in a variety of places.

This guide will help you gain a general overview of the main sources of the information that exists, and where to find it. This guide is for people interested in the subject of the Napoleonic Wars as opposed to those interested in finding a specific person.

What do I need to know before I start?

The Napoleonic Wars were several conflicts involving the French Empire between c1803 and 1815.

There is no clear date marking the end of the French Revolutionary Wars and the start of the Napoleonic Wars.

The Napoleonic Wars ended at the Battle of Waterloo 18 June 1815.

There are a great number of records relating to the Napoleonic Wars at The National Archives. Try searching our catalogue with a specific term, name or subject to help focus your search.

There is likely to be some overlap between separate departments on any given subject. For example, a decision made during the Napoleonic Wars may have been informed by the Foreign Office (FO), discussed by local commanders and then carried out by the Army (WO) and Navy (ADM).

Online records

There are no significant collections of records on the subject of the Napoleonic Wars available online.

Records available only at The National Archives in Kew

To access these records you will either need to visit us, pay for research (£) or, where you can identify a specific record reference, order a copy (£).

Foreign Office general correspondence: France (1781-1905)

Browse Discovery, our catalogue, for general correspondence relating to France and British diplomatic activity before, during, and after the Napoleonic wars in FO 27. You will need to use the registers and indexes in FO 605 to access these records.

General records

Search and browse the WO, FO and HO departments to gain an overview of various government and military records from the Napoleonic wars.

Records in other archives and organisations

Records held elsewhere

The National Archives’ catalogue contains collections and contact details of local archives around the UK and beyond. To locate these records, search our catalogue with keywords and refine your results to ‘Other archives’ using the filters.

Other resources


Search The National Archives’ library catalogue for the publications below. You may also want to see what is available to buy from The National Archives’ bookshop.

An Alphabetical Guide to certain War Office and other Military Records preserved in the Public Record Office (Lists and Indexes no53, 1931; Kraus reprint, 1963) (for help finding records at The National Archives by subject, name or keyword)

Army Records by William Spencer (The National Archives, 2008)


Visit The National Archives’ online exhibition on Nelson, Trafalgar, and those who served.

Search The Times Archive and the Guardian and Observer Digital Archive to view articles (£) about the Napoleonic Wars.