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York Civic Trust

The York Knowledge: Social and Economic History


1514 depicted in 2014
Section Convenor : Professor Edward Royle

For an overview of the history of York the reader might begin with Patrick Nuttgens (ed.), The History of York (Pickering: Blackthorn Press, 2001). This contains nine chapters by different authors, spanning the years from Roman York to the twentieth century; each chapter has its own bibliography which should be consulted for more detailed further reading and specialist reference.

For general reference, P. M. Tillott (ed.) The City of York (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1961) in the Victoria County History series is invaluable. It is available through this website.It has easy to use sections on most aspects of York's history, and the references are a good guide to the sources for further study.

Within the city's libraries are rich collections of local historical works, published over the past two centuries and more. Some of these are to be found in the Local History Room of York Explore, the central library in Museum Street, which also has good holdings of local newspapers with a card index to major events, places and personalities since the eighteenth century. The University of York's library catalogue gives links to other libraries in York and incorporates the York Minster Library's holdings. The latter library, with its Hailstone and other collections, including some early newspapers, provides a rich collection of local historical publications, and the University also has an excellent collection thanks to the late Raymond Burton. For a detailed computer search of the Minster Library's holdings, though, it is best to use that library's own catalogue, which contains more detail than the University's listings which contain only authors and titles.

The Minster Library and the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York also have important manuscript collections which the serious student of York's past will at some point need to explore.

Among the thematic histories of York covering several centuries might be mentioned:
G. E. Aylmer and R. Cant (eds), A History of York Minster (Oxford: Oxford  University Press, 1977);
D. Griffiths, A Musical Place of the First Quality: A History of Institutional Music-Making in York, c.1550-1990 (York: York  Settlement Trust, [1994]).

Covering a more limited period, but with excellent scholarly essays introducing aspects of York's nineteenth and twentieth-century history, is
Charles Feinstein (ed.), York 1831−1981: 150 years of Scientific Endeavour and Social Change (York: Sessions, 1981).

Finally three series of publications will introduce the reader to many aspects of York's history:

1. Borthwick Papers (published by the Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York).
These provide pamphlet-length studies of any aspect of York history and any aspect of the religious history of the Northern Province of the Archdiocese of York, in any period. A full list of those still in print will be found at
http://www.york.ac.uk/library/borthwick/publications/pubs-by-series/papers/
Out of print Papers will be found in several local libraries.

2. Publications of the York Oral History Society, some of the more recent of which have been published by the York Archaeological Trust (see 3 below):

York memories at work : personal accounts of working life in York before 1952 (1985);
York memories of stage and screen: personal accounts of York's theatres and cinemas, 1900-1960 (1988);
Beyond the Postern Gate: a history of Fishergate and Fulford Road (1996)  by Van Wilson;
Humour, heartache and hope: life in Walmgate (1996);
Rich in all but money : life in Hungate, 1900-1938 (1996);
- Rhythm and romance : an oral history of popular music in York, volume 1 (2002); 
- Something in the air : an oral history of popular music in York
, volume 2, the beat goes on (2002);
- York Memories: nine first-hand accounts of life in York 1900-1939 (2004)

3. The many publications of the York Archaeological Trust. Those in print will be found at
. http://www.yorkarchaeology.co.uk/resources/publications/

Finally there are numerous, pamphlets and essays written mainly by local people, amateur and professional, which both illustrate local enthusiasms and convey additional information which often escapes the more general works.  Some such pieces can be found in individually published works and others are collected in:

1.  A. Whitworth, Aspects of York: discovering local history (Barnsley: Wharncliffe Books, 2000);

2. The York Historian, which since 1976 has been the annual periodical publication of the Yorkshire Architectural and York Archaeological Society (YAYAS).  This now contains around a hundred contributions exploring the local history of York over several centuries.

See below for useful web links:

York City Archives

York Minster Library


Rowntree Society

Historical Association, York Branch

Friends of York Archaeological Trust

The Yorkshire Architectural and York Archaeological Society


University of York Library

City of York Library

Borthwick Institute for Archives

University of York's Centre for Eighteenth century studies

York Georgian Society