How to look for records of... Political history in the 19th century

How can I view the records covered in this guide?

How many are online?

  • Some

This is a brief guide to help you find records of 19th century political history. The 19th century was a period of great political and social change, including social reforms affecting education, poverty and public health, and reform of the franchise.

The Home Office was created in 1782 to supervise the internal affairs of Great Britain, with particular emphasis on law, order and regulation. The Foreign Office, the department responsible for the conduct of British relations with nearly all foreign states, was also formed in 1782.

The National Archives holds many records for this period, including the correspondence and minutes of the major departments, including the Home Office, the Foreign Office, and the Treasury. We also hold the papers of some prominent politicians.

Online records

House of Commons parliamentary papers (1715-present)

Search Parliamentary papers (institutional subscription required) for digitised copies of official papers published by the House of Commons and House of Lords.

The Gazette (1665-present)

Search the London Gazette, on The Gazette website, by date or keyword for official news from home and abroad.

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 (£).

Papers of prominent people

Search Discovery, our catalogue, by name and tick the ‘held by The National Archives’ box to find records held at The National Archives relating to particular people, such as politicians.

Home Office records (1782-2005)

You can search our catalogue by a range of years within HO with keywords such as:

  • poverty
  • crime
  • public health

If you do not find what you are looking for, browse the department code HO for Home Office records instead. Not all the records in HO are searchable by keywords.

Treasury records (1557-1922)

Browse our catalogue in record series T1, for records of the Treasury including correspondence, reports and minutes.

Foreign Office records (before 1906)

Browse our catalogue in record series FO 1-FO 90 and FO 95-FO 111 for records earlier than 1906. These are mostly arranged by country.

Records in other archives and organisations

Records held in archives in the United Kingdom and abroad

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


Explore a range of 19th century sources in British History Online.

Consult the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (institutional subscription required) for biographies of prominent people.

Search The Times Archive and Guardian and Observer Digital Archive to view articles (£) about 19th century politics.

Search on Historic Hansard for official report of debates in Parliament.

Search on Parliamentary Papers for House of Common sessional papers from 1715 to present day.

Pamphlets and newspapers

Search the catalogues on the British Library website to find 19th century political pamphlets and newspapers.