There is an enormous body of work written about the City of York from all aspects, and also rich collections of archives. This section of the York Knowledge provides bibliographical information about these materials through the online catalogues of libraries and archives collections, locally and nationally, and other search tools. Much of the material is held in York itself and is easily accessible and some full text books and articles are also available online. For those new to the study of York, the Social and Economic History page suggests some books to read for an overview of its history and for thematic introductions.

Local Resources


York Local Bibliography 

York Local Bibliography (to 1984) is a database of approximately 7000 books and journal articles about York. It is hoped to add the entries to the University of York Library Catalogue, having begun in April 2013.


The Hugh Murray Bibliography

This bibliography was compiled to help scholars interested in York, from his huge personal collection of publications relevant to the city, by local historian and author Hugh Murray, who sadly died in June 2013, aged 80.  He had also published books about York.  The Trust is assisting with transferring much of Hugh Murray’s marvellous local history material to the City Archives.  After sorting and cataloguing it would become available to consult. The bibliography had previously been published in issues of Yorkshire Architectural & York Archaeological Society’s York Historian 1995-2001.  Here it is available as an Excel spreadsheet: The Hugh Murray Bibliography (To save and interrogate the file, right click on the link, then “save link as”)


York Explore Archives and Local History Collections

York’s great archival strength covers the past 800 years. This is the period for which the city not only has books but also has preserved original archival documents created by generations of York’s citizens as they went about their daily business. It is recommended that people contact the Library (York Explore) for more details, although a list of the Civic archive collections currently available can be found here. The local history collections at York Explore include maps of York and many types of records.  The card catalogue for the local history collections covers material added up to the end of 2008. From 2009 material is on the online catalogue only. There is a volunteer programme to transfer entries from the card catalogue onto the online catalogue.


The Borthwick Institute for Archives

Borthwick Institute is now part of the University of York and is one of the biggest archive repositories outside London. During its 60 year history it has collected archives from all around the world, from the 12th century to the present day. Holdings include the York Diocesan archive, 13th to 21st centuries; probate records, 14th century to 1858; York parish records; the archives of York NHS hospitals and of The Retreat (Quaker psychiatric hospital); business archives including those of Rowntree plc, Terrys of York, Thos. Cooke and Sons, scientific instrument makers, and the architectural practice of Messrs Atkinson and W.H. Brierley; the archives of the York Blue Coat and Grey Coat Schools, Wilberforce School for the Blind, and the Quaker-run Mount School for girls; Seebohm Rowntree’s research papers, and many more.


University of York Library & Archives

The University Library is open to anyone wanting to consult the books. Yorsearch, the Library Catalogue, also includes the books from the associated Libraries of the King’s Manor, York Minster Library and the National Railway Museum archive. As well as books on the open shelves, the University Library holds over 1,500 items on Yorkshire history in its Special Collections. It also holds copies of all York Masters and Doctoral theses which include material on various aspects of York. The most recent theses may be available in full text online at along with some research articles. Special Collections and theses need to be booked in advance for consultation in the Borthwick Institute Search Room.


York Minster Library

The Library in the Minster’s Old Palace holds the extensive historic printed collections of the Dean and Chapter of York, as well as a modern reference and lending library.  The Minster Library’s collections cover subjects such as Theology, Literature, History, Art History, Stained Glass and Local History. The books are included on Yorsearch, the University Library Catalogue. To search the Minster Library books and journals specifically, go to Advanced Search and choose the Search scope “York Minster Library”. Members of the public are welcome to use the Library in the Dean’s Park, which is open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.  It is in a historic building which was part of the former Palace of the Archbishop of York.


York Minster Archives

The Minster’s own archive collection includes a wide range of records and manuscripts relating to the Christian Church and Yorkshire history dating from about the year 1000 to the present day. A list of the holdings of the archive can be found here. You will need to make an appointment to consult the Archivist, the records and manuscripts finding aids, microforms, and original records and manuscripts. You will also need to register for a Records & Manuscripts Reader’s Ticket in order to gain access to original material. There is normally a charge.


The Yorkshire Museum

The Yorkshire Museum’s Library is a treasure trove of books about the natural world and human history – including palaeontology, geology, volcanology, botany, conchology, archaeology, numismatics and the history of science and antiquarianism. Established in 1822 by the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, 15,000 monograph volumes and 500 journal titles date from 16th century to the present day. The early collection reveals the national role of York’s ‘philosophers’ in the scientific world of 19th century, and includes groundbreaking historical works.  There is currently no online catalogue.  Access to the Library is usually by prior arrangement but is being increased.  Here is a general link to the Yorkshire Museum.


York St John University Library

The York St John University Library holds some York-related materials including the post-1945 Theatre Royal Archive. It is open to visitors. The Yorkshire Film Archive is housed in the same building.


National Railway Museum Search Engine

Search Engine is the NRM’s library and archive centre, open Wed to Sat, 10am to 4.45pm.  You can get help with railway-related questions, research railway topics, access original materials, listen to oral history and watch railway films and DVDs. The books are included on YorSearch, the University Library Catalogue. To search specifically among the NRM books, choose the Collection “National Railway Museum”.  The Museum is associated with the University of York through the Institute of Railway Studies.


The Bar Convent

The Bar Convent‘s extensive archives and library together form a Catholic Study and Research Centre. The history of The Bar Convent itself is supported by its own documents. Researchers and students should apply to the Archivist/Librarian, stating their area of study. A letter of recommendation is required from those who are strangers to The Bar Convent.


Nestlé UK Archives

The Nestlé UK archive houses documents, photographs, films and ephemera relating to all of the Nestlé factories and offices across the UK including Rowntrees (later Rowntree Mackintosh) in York.  The Nestle Archive is not open to the general public. Please enquire by e-mail in the first instance alex.hutchinson@uk.nestlé.com.

The Rowntree Archives are held at the Borthwick Institute, University of York.


York Mystery Plays Archive (at the National Centre for Early Music)

The York Mystery Plays archive is a rapidly expanding repository of historic material relating to the Cycle of York Mystery Plays and their performance in the city over the years from 1951. The archive webpage allows you to do word searches.

The National Centre for Early Music has photographs, programmes, recorded interviews and other material which has been contributed by York people, actors and audiences. The volunteer Mystery Play Archivist is at the National Centre for Early Music, St Margaret’s, Walmgate, York YO1 9TL, Please telephone 01904 632220, or email in advance to arrange to see material.  Donor details will be recorded and acknowledged.

They would like to receive more donations, if there are items to be found in readers’ attics or cupboards which could be shared. Did you see or act in the plays in 1951, 1954, 1957, 1960, 1963, 1966, 1969, 1973, 1976, 1980, 1984 or 1988 (all in Museum Gardens)? Or in 1992 or 1996 in the Theatre Royal? Or the wagon plays in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006 or 2010?


Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Leeds

The library of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society holds books on all aspects of Yorkshire’s history from prehistory to the present day including local history, social history, industrial history, heraldry, place-names, and architecture. The Library also has obscure journals not found elsewhere in Yorkshire. You only need an appointment for the Library if you are a first-time visitor and require staff to spend time with you on how the Library works. An appointment is necessary to access the Archive collections, though a lot of information is available electronically at either collection or item level through the YAS website or a2a (see below).


Yorkshire Country Houses Partnership Libraries Project

The University of York Library and six houses in the Partnership (Brodsworth Hall, Burton Constable, Castle Howard, Harewood House, Lotherton Hall, and Temple Newsam) collaborated in the Yorkshire Country Houses Partnership Libraries Project to review and create a brief catalogue of their library collections. The project was funded by MLA Yorkshire from December 2002 to May 2006 and has opened up these country house libraries to both the general public and academic researchers.


Yorkshire Museum of Farming at Murton

The Yorkshire Museum of Farming at Murton‘s Library and Archives are available by appointment.


Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington

The Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington‘s Collections Department holds important archives of paper and film records, photographs and artefacts relating to flying and especially the Royal Air Force, French Air Force, RAuxAF, RAAF, RNZAF and RCAF Squadrons during WWII. Items include uniforms, log books, squadron photographs, personal as well as aircraft artefacts and many other interesting items from early flying days right up to the present day.


Yorkshire Architectural and York Archaeological Society

York Learned societies also publish journals, for example, York Historian published by YAYAS. YAYAS also holds the massive Evelyn collection of images of York.

National Resources


The British Library

The British Library in London has a copy of every book published in the UK and many from elsewhere. With Explore the British Library you can search, view and order items from the main catalogue of nearly 57 million records, or search the contents of the Library’s website. To read books you can order a reader’s pass and any books you want to see in advance so that they are made available for you in the Reading Rooms at the St Pancras site in London.


The National Archives at Kew

The government’s national archives for England, Wales and the United Kingdom, is at Kew. It holds over 1,000 years of the nation’s records. If you cannot find what you are looking for online, you can visit The National Archives to see original documents or records on microfilm or microfiche. Entrance is free and there is no need to book. Access to Archives: a2a searches national and local archive collections but as of 2011 is no longer adding new material.


The Archives Hub

Use the Archives Hub to find unique sources for your research. The Archives Hub enables you to search across a wealth of archives held at nearly 200 institutions in England, Scotland and Wales.

Digitised full-text books, articles and maps

Many of these websites are free. Make sure they are reputable. Some examples include:


Google books and Google Scholar

Use the the Advanced Search option on Google books and Google Scholar to find full text books and articles available free of charge (usually books out of copyright). The Borthwick Institute’s out of print publications are also accessible through Google Books.


Historical Directories

Hosted by the University of Leicester, this collection of digitised trade directories covers England and Wales from the 1760s to the 1910s. This full text resource is searchable by location, decade and keyword.


British History Online

British History Online is the digital library containing some of the core printed primary and secondary sources, including maps, for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles. Created by the Institute of Historical Research (University of London) and the History of Parliament Trust, it aims to support academic and personal users around the world in their learning, teaching and research. It includes, for example, searchable full text of the authoritative Victoria County History for York, Register of the Freemen of the City of York 1272-1759 (Surtees Society).  It provides free access to reliable local history materials, produced by academics and volunteers. Photographs, paintings, drawings, maps, text, transcribed documents and audio files are organised thematically


Old Maps Online

The Old Maps Online portal is an easy-to-use gateway to historical maps in libraries around the world. It allows the user to search for online digital historical maps across numerous different collections via a geographical search. Search by typing a place-name or by clicking in the map window, and narrowing by date. The search results provide a direct link to the map image on the website of the host institution.


Ordnance Survey Map of York (1852)

The first Ordnance Survey Map of York was published in 1852, in great and accurate detail. It can be viewed at


A Vision of Britain Through Time

A Vision of Britain through time brings together historical surveys of Britain to create a record of how the country and its localities have changed between 1801 and 2000. It includes maps, statistical trends, and historic travel writings.


Specialist Bibliographies

Some societies/groups include bibliographies on their websites. Some are free but most are by subscription. Free ones include the Vernacular Architecture Group and the Council for British Archaeology which provides the British & Irish Archaeological Bibliography, now biab online. Journals are available by subscription but many are usually held in libraries.