The University Library and Archives has important collections in the original, in reprint or in microform, on the English Civil War, French revolutionary history, nineteenth century British radicalism, and nineteenth and early twentieth century women’s history, as well as the British Parliamentary Papers and several major British and American newspapers on microfilm and electronic database.
The Wormald and Newton collections, housed in the King’s Manor, consist of books on art history, palaeography, bibliography and liturgy, and there is also a reference photographic collection devoted to medieval art.
The Borthwick Institute for Archives is one of the largest and most important archive repositories in Britain, and has been part of the University of York since 1963. With two miles of shelving it offers exceptional resources for research into many areas of history from the medieval period to the twentieth century.
In 2005 after a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £4,415,000 the Borthwick Institute moved from the medieval St Anthony's Hall in York to a new purpose-built building on campus, adjacent to the Raymond Burton Humanities Research Library. This means that the University’s printed special collections and manuscript holdings can be consulted together.
The core of the Borthwick’s holdings are the records of the Archbishop of York from the early thirteenth century onwards. As well as manuscripts of interest to religious and ecclesiastical historians, these include enormous quantities of probate records relevant to social and economic historians and the records of the ecclesiastical courts from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century, which are a rich mine for social and cultural historians, for scholars interested in the history of gender and the family, of social relations and of popular belief and practice.
The Institute also possesses a very large range of other archives relating to Britain and the rest of the world. These include important Southern African holdings, the Rowntree Papers, which are central to the history of social investigation, the political papers of Lord Halifax, and the Methodist archives for York and district. In addition the Borthwick holds the archives of the York Health Services NHS trust from the eighteenth century onwards and other health archives. These include the records of York County, Bootham Park and Clifton Hospitals, and the records of the Retreat asylum founded by the Quakers in 1786 and make Borthwick a nationally and internationally significant repository of records relating to the history of health and medicine.
A large number of MAs and PhDs have used Borthwick material, but there remain many more opportunities to exploit the richness of its holdings.
The University Library is a member of the SCONUL scheme, enabling research students to borrow books from the Yorkshire and Humberside libraries which are members of the SCONUL consortium; and York is the nearest university to the British Library Document Supply Centre at Boston Spa - the largest lending library in Europe - which has a reading room open to students. The Department also subscribes on behalf of its research students to the Institute of Historical Research in London.
York Minster Library, in addition to its large collection of early printed books, has particular strengths in medieval history, patristic and liturgical writings, literature, iconography, and art history.
It also possesses a number of Anglo-Saxon and medieval manuscripts, and holds the archives of the Dean and Chapter. It has additional holdings of manuscript materials for both the Church of England and Methodism, and its important holdings of printed works include books, pamphlets, newspapers and ephemera: special importance should be attached to the Hailstone Collection of manuscripts, newspapers and ephemera relating to Yorkshire.
As well as a number of local lending libraries, York holds extensive city archives and research library facilities. The bulk of these have recently been centralised into a newly redeveloped Explore York Centre, located on Museum Street.
The city of York holds an important collection of printed works, including books, maps and trade directories relating to the history of York and Yorkshire, as well as an outstanding collection of nineteenth century photographs of Yorkshire and an indexed set of the city and county newspapers published in York since the eighteenth century. The City Library also holds the J.A.R. Marriott Collection of printed books and sources for the history of British foreign policy in the first half of the twentieth century.
Archival records stretch back over 800 years, and include some of the Enclosure records for the area of the County called the Ainsty, some manorial records, records of some Societies and Institutions based in York (mainly involved with crime, welfare and hospitals), political parties, trade unions, cultural and recreational bodies in the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, civic and private charities, education, family estate records, businesses, Solicitors, Scientific records, entertainments, maps and plans and photographs and illustrations (especially slum clearance work in the twentieth century).
Research at York is further strengthened by the university's proximity to the British Library Document Supply Centre at Boston Spa, the largest lending collection in the UK. A free minibus service runs each week to the reading room there.
The Yorkshire Film Archive is the public access film archive for Yorkshire and the Humber. It holds over 14,000 items of film and video tape, dating from the earliest days of film making in the 1880s to the present day. Members of the department supervise research drawing upon their rich resources.
York is a notable city of museums, including the Castle Museum of folk history and the National Railway Museum, each with its own archive collection. Research in railway history (Institute of Railway Studies) is co-chaired by Professor Mark Ormrod, Dean of Arts & Humanities at the University of York, and Andrew McLean, Head Curator at the National Railway Museum. There are other major medical and business archives available to support a wide range of research.