How to look for Home affairs in the early modern period: state papers domestic 1714-1782
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
1. Why use this guide?
This guide tells you:
- what the state papers domestic 1714-1782 are, and what information they contain
- how to find state papers at The National Archives and elsewhere
- which finding aids and websites can help you search the state papers
For any state papers domestic for other dates, refer to these guides instead:
For state papers regarding foreign and Irish affairs see the guides:
For state papers regarding the Jacobite risings see this guide:
For papers after 1782 when the Home Office was established, browse record series within the HO department (especially record series HO 42 which is a continuation of the main correspondence of the Secretaries of State after 1782). For more guidance on Home Office correspondence, see the guide on Home Office correspondence 1782-1979.
2. What are the state papers domestic, 1714-1782?
The state papers domestic are the accumulated in-letters and working papers of the secretaries of state, relating to home affairs. They contain information on almost every aspect of the business of government in the eighteenth-century in the form of letters, petitions, intelligence reports, memoranda, orders in council, warrants and newsletters.
State papers are arranged by reign with the date coverage of the records in brackets:
There are also other relevant record series which cover the whole or part of the period.
3. How do I search the records?
Most record series for the period can only be accessed by manuscript calendars and the published List and Index Society volumes held at The National Archives and you can search descriptions for some record series in our catalogue. The period 1760-1775 has been calendared. See below.
3.1 Online records
The descriptions are searchable by keyword on State Papers Online (institutional subscription required or free to view onsite at The National Archives at Kew), and this website provides digitised images of the documents.
3.2 Using Discovery, our catalogue
You can also try searching by keyword(s) in our catalogue. Try searching by:
- name of person, such as ‘Francis Atterbury’
- place, such as ‘Scotland’
- subject, such as ‘South Sea Company’
Once you have identified possible document references, you can view the records online, on microfilm at The National Archives or request a copy.
4. Reign of George I (1714 – 1727)
The main series is SP 35, covering 1714 to 1727.
The reign of George I was notable for the development of Cabinet government. Most notably these series include:
- records of the Atterbury plot, 1722-1723
- material on the aftermath of the first Jacobite rebellion
- records of early Cabinet meetings
- papers on finance and trade affairs (including the South Sea Bubble)
4.1 Using our catalogue
4.2 Searching by topic, person or place
Additional descriptions can be found in the four-volume typed calendar published by the List and Index Society (volumes 136, 144, 155, 165 and 173, 1977-1981) with an index of persons and places covering SP 35/1-76 only.
4.3 Searching for ministerial meetings
You can search for records relating to ministerial meetings in the reign of George I in List and Index Society, volume 224, 1987.
It provides lists of office holders and lists of meetings (giving the date, type, those present and chief topic), with references to documents in The National Archives.
5. Reign of George II (1727-1760)
The main series is SP 36, covering 1727-1760. All aspects of government are reflected in the contents, including:
- papers concerning the Jacobite Rising of 1745 (SP 36/65-104 cover the period 1745-1747, while SP 36/105 covers 1747-1748; see also SP 36/162-163 for later activity)
- domestic intelligence
- law and order
- some orders in Council and some Cabinet minutes
There are no descriptions for SP 36/106-163 on the catalogue, but there is a handwritten list available covering this part of the series in our reading rooms at The National Archives, Kew.
5.1 Using our catalogue
6. Reign of George III (1760-1783)
Subjects covered include:
- finance and trade
- colonial policy (especially with regard to America)
- law and order (including the Gordon riots)
- John Wilkes and Liberty
- correspondence with the Treasury
- Irish and Scottish affairs
6.1 Using manuscript calendars
In addition to the standard list, SP 37 is calendared (for 1760-1775 only). Consult the Calendar of Home Office papers of the reign of George III, eds. Joseph Redington and Richard Arthur Roberts, 4 volumes (London, 1878-1899) for a summary of the records. The calendars incorrectly refer to the Home Office in the title. You may need to use the handwritten list (see below) for SP 37 found in our reading rooms to convert the references in the calendar into orderable document references.
Military commissions are omitted, except those issued to commanders in chief, governors of colonies, etc.
6.2 Using manuscript lists (after 1776)
For the period after 1776 documents can be traced in the handwritten lists (in our reading rooms at The National Archives) which also include document references to material not in the calendars.
7. Other relevant records
Other series cover the whole or part of the period, some are described online and some in the calendars mentioned above.
- SP 43 contains the correspondence between the secretaries of state written from Whitehall and Hanover during the absences of George I and George II
- SP 44 contains entry books. These include copies for out letters (royal and secretarial), warrants, reports, licences, etc. They cover all aspects of policy including naval and military, legal and ecclesiastical affairs
- SP 41, State Papers Military, covers military policy and expeditions – consult An alphabetical guide to certain War Office and other military records (PRO Lists and Indexes, LIII, 1931) which list many items in SP 41
- SP 87, Military Expeditions
- SP 42 covers naval policy
- SP 54 covers Scotland
- SP 55 covers Scotland, descriptions can be searched using keywords on our catalogue for SP 55/1-13
8. Further reading
Search The National Archives’ bookshop to see whether any of the publications below may be available to buy. Alternatively, look in The National Archives’ library catalogue to see what is available to consult at Kew.
See the paper Introductory Notes to each record series list in the Map and Large Document Room at The National Archives.
CM Andrews, Guide to the materials for American history, to 1783, in the Public Record Office of Great Britain, volume I (Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1912)
JM Beattie, The English Court in the Reign of George I (CUP, 1967)
JC Sainty, ed, Officials of the secretaries of state, 1660-1782 (University of London, Institute of Historical Research, 1973)
H Smith, Georgian Monarchy: Politics and Culture, 1714-1760 (CUP, 2006)
Guide reference: Domestic Information Research Guide 19