Royal Historical Society Bibliographies on British and Irish History

The Royal Historical Society Bibliography of British and Irish history (now known as the Bibliography of British and Irish History and published by Brepols Publishers) is a database containing over 500,000 bibliographical records relating to British and Irish history, and to the British and Irish abroad, at all periods for which written evidence survives. The database aims to be as comprehensive as possible for publications since 1900, but includes some selected earlier material. Journals and collections of essays are described and indexed at article level, and publications of 1946 and later are indexed not only by subject, but also by period covered, so that the database constitutes a unique resource for all who are interested in the history of Britain and Ireland and of their peoples.

The Royal Historical Society (RHS), operating in conjunction with the Institute of Historical Research, has been involved in the delivery of bibliographic resources for the scholarly community since 1934. For the years 1975 to 2002, the Society published the Annual Bibliographies of British and Irish History, generally within nine months of the end of the calendar year in which the bulk of the material included was published. In 1989, recognising the problems caused by the lack of an up-to-date comprehensive cumulative bibliography, the Society embarked on the preparation of an electronic version of its bibliographies, engaging in extensive additional bibliographic research in areas such as Imperial and Commonwealth history where coverage in the underpinning bibliographies was thin. The first fruit of this project, funded largely by the Leverhulme Trust, with additional support from other bodies (including the British Academy), and drawing on the unpaid labours of about 100 scholars who provided the indexing terms, was the 'Royal Historical Society Bibliography: the History of Britain, Ireland, and the British Overseas' incorporating 250,000 records for titles published up to 1992, and published on CD-ROM by Oxford University Press in 1998.

In the next phase of the project (1997-2003) the Society committed itself to the enhancement of the resource, in three main ways:
i. bringing the cumulative database up-to-date, adding material from the Annual Bibliographies for 1993-6 and for each subsequent Annual Bibliography as soon as it is available;
ii. moving the data to a new and specially designed relational database (using Adlib software), to facilitate the creation of authority lists of authors, serial titles, and indexing terms, the last including a specially designed hierarchical subject classification which provides a controlled language of subject indexing terms. Material published since 1993 has been indexed using this scheme, along with separate indexes of persons and places, from which authority lists are being constructed, and efforts are currently being made retrospectively to convert the previous more haphazard indexing to match these standards.
iii. making the bibliography freely available on-line. The web site hosted by the Institute of Historical Research was launched at the Anglo-American Conference of Historians in July 2002.

In the next phase of this ongoing project (2004-6), funded by the AHRC, the resource was further enhanced in four main ways:
i. by keeping the bibliography up to date;
ii. by adapting the way in which authority data are stored to further interoperability with other on-line resources. Links were established with the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) and the National Register of Archives (NRA) so that searches on individuals in any one resource give access to the biographical, bibliographical or archival information relating to that individual that is contained in the other resources;
iii. by improving links to full-text versions of articles where these are available on-line using OpenURL and the United Kingdom OpenURL Router at EDINA.
iv. co-operation with Irish History Online to enhance coverage of Irish history.

The 2007-9 phase of the project, also AHRC-funded, continued to keep the bibliographical data up-to-date and also engaged in the following:
i. redevelopment of online software to make more use of XML and to improve functionality for users;
ii. increasing the exposure of the data, e.g. to OAI harvesters and online search engines;
iii. co-operation with the Scottish Historical Review Trust in order to enhance coverage further;
iv. extension of linking to online resources, including the Archaeology Data Service library and Google Books;
v. development of online tutorials.

Since 2009 the bibliography has been published by Brepols Publishers, who are now responsible for the online interface. Funding is provided partly by subscriptions and partly by the Royal Historical Society and the Institute of Historical Research.

News of further developments can be found in the IHR blog.

Principal investigator
Dr Ian Archer
Principal project staff
Dr Ian Archer
Start date
Saturday, January 1, 2000
Completion date
Friday, January 1, 2010
Digital resources created
A bibliography currently of over 400000 records relating to publications on British and Irish History and on the British and Irish overseas, from Roman times to the present day, searchable by author, title, period covered, subject, person as subject, and place. The bibliography covers books, journal artilces, and articles in collective volumes. Linkages are provided to COPAC, to some on-line reviews, to journal web sites and to Oxford DNB and NRA. OpenURL router technology provides linkage to full text versions of material. The resource enables researchers at a variety of levels (undergraduates to academic staff) to construct bibliographies on specific subjects, using the specially designed subject classification and place and period indexing, as well as to check bibliographic references.
Source material
Underlying bibliographic information derives from following main series of publications. In addition the database includes much previously unpublished bibliographical information collected specifically for this project (see end). For post 1945 items subject information has been provided by academic researchers; for publications since 1992 this has been conducted according to a controlled subject language: Writings on British History produced by the Institute of Historical Research covering publications of 1901-1974. Annual Bibliographies on British and Irish History produced by the Royal Historical Society, publications of 1975-2002. The underlying data for London's Past On-Line (a sister project incorporated into the database) is contained in H. Creaton (ed.)., Bibliography of printed works on London history to 1939 (1994), and H. Creaton (ed.), Sources for the history of London, 1939-1945. A bibliography and guide (1998). The underlying data for Irish History On-Line (another sister project incorporated into the database) derives from Writings on Irish History, published under the aegis of the Royal Irish Academy's National Commitee for History. Current records are generated through BL-INSIDE service and the British National Bibliography (but we add much of our own indexing to these records), and also through publishers' e-alerts for journals. A considerable amount of material is added on recommendations form academic section editors, and personal searches in libraries by members of the project team.

A. Gee (ed.), Royal Historical Society Annual BibliographyOf British and Irish History. Publications of 1999 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)

A. Gee (ed.), Royal Historical Society Annual BibliographyOf British and Irish History. Publications of 2000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001)

A. Gee (ed.), Royal Historical Society Annual BibliographyOf British and Irish History. Publications of 2001 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)

A. Gee (ed.), Royal Historical Society Annual BibliographyOf British and Irish History. Publications of 2002 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)

Royal Historical Society Bibliography of British and Irish History, online publication at