British History Online extends and expands it's free content offer

British History Online extends and expands it's free content offer

British History Online has extended its free online content offer until 30th September 


British History Online was founded by the Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust in 2003. Our collection currently contains over 1,270 volumes and is always growing.

To 30 September 2020 we're making all transcribed BHO content freely available for individual users. This adds 200 volumes of primary materials. As a result, BHO's full complement of 1280 volumes is now available for research.

For the full list and more details see -    BUT here is a small flavour of some really interesting documents that you can now access for free - 


The extra 200 volumes now available are predominantly made up of two important series:

Close Rolls record ‘Letters close’ which were issued by the Chancery in the name of the Crown. These letters were ‘usually of an executive nature conveying orders and instructions, and, therefore of a private and personal nature’ (The National Archives, 2020). Because of their nature, letters were ‘issued folded and “closed” by the application of the great seal’ (TNA).

The Close Rolls are records of these letters, initiated by Chancery to create a master version of the letters sent. BHO’s collection covers closed letters issued between 1244 and 1509 in a total of 61 volumes.

The State Papers Domestic are the accumulated papers of the secretaries of state relating to national home (domestic) affairs. They contain information on every facet of early modern government. State Papers took many formats: ‘including private and official letters, musters, reports, commissions and instructions, council orders and correspondence, proclamations, memoranda and draft parliamentary bills’ (TNA, 2020).

BHO’s collection covers State Papers Domestic for the period 1547 to 1704 in a total of 92 volumes.

In both cases, British History Online offers the Calendar of the original records, not the original records. These Calendars were created in the late Victorian period. They provide researchers with a full summary of the contents of the original document. For nearly all purposes these summaries are wholly sufficient for research.

The remainder of the now free BHO content comprises the following eight series:

final series is the Calendar of Patent Rolls, covering the reigns of Henry III, Edward I and Edward II (1216 to 1307), which appear in 10 volumes. The Patent Rolls are closely linked to the Close Rolls, being the records of Letters patent (or ‘open’).

Letters patent were unsealed letters expressing the sovereign’s will on a variety of matters of public interest. BHO’s 10 volumes are the first output in a new project to digitise and publish the Calendar of Patent Rolls up to and including the reign of Henry VII (1509); this project is ongoing.

For more on the Patent (and Close) Rolls, and their usefulness for medieval historians, see this earlier IHR blog post from Dr Adam Chapman of the IHR.


Margaret Roberts

Written by : Margaret Roberts