For anybody interested in local or community history, printed sources can often prove invaluable. Such sources cover a wide variety of material, from academic articles and undergraduate theses to self-published works by amateur historians and others with a local interest. A brief overview of the main categories of printed sources is given below.
County and local histories
The earliest history of the county is Robert Plot’s The Natural History of Staffordshire, published in 1686. The most detailed work (and one which is still in progress) is the multi-volume Victoria County History of Staffordshire, often referred to as the VCH. Covering approximately half the county to date, the VCH contains fully-referenced academic articles on general themes (such as industry and forests) as well as parish histories, which make up the greater part of the project.
Studies on a particular theme can cover almost any subject at any level. For example, if you are investigating the boot and shoe industry, you can find information about the industry at both national and local level (e.g. in Stafford); material relating to individual companies; and sources about the development of trade unions within the industry.
Journals of societies
A wide range of national, regional and local societies with an interest in history have published journals. These cover a wide range of subjects and material, with Economic History Review, Midlands Catholic History, Collections for a History of Staffordshire and North Staffordshire Field Studies to name just a few.
From the late 18th century onwards, local newspapers have provided a commentary on national and local affairs. For more information about this particular source, please see the following page: Newspapers.
Transcripts of original documents
Early local historians recognized that one of the main problems with carrying out historical research was inaccessible archives. In response, printed transcripts of central government documents (then held in the Public Record Office) were published by parliament and by historical societies. Local societies also published material from private collections. Transcripts of medieval and early modern records of central government include:
- Taxation records – including the Domesday Book (1086), the earliest known documentary source for many English settlements
- Landholding records – inquisitions post mortem (inquiries into land held at time of death); feet of fines (copy of an agreement made between two parties in a lawsuit over land)
- Records of Crown grants of lands, offices and other benefits – patent rolls, close rolls (administrative records from the Chancery)
Where to find printed sources
The largest and most varied collections of local studies material in Staffordshire are held by the William Salt Library, Stafford, and the City Central Library at Hanley, Stoke on Trent. Some sources are unique to the individual library, whilst other material is held at both sites. Smaller, more localized collections can also be found at the district libraries in Burton, Cannock, Leek, Lichfield, Newcastle, Stafford and Tamworth.