Related Records Held Elsewhere
The vast majority of extant business records (approximately 75%) are held by local authority record offices. Less than 3% of companies retain their own archives, although a notable local exception to this is Boots.
Anyone wishing to locate records for a particular company is advised to see if they have an entry in the directory of 2,500 record repositories maintained by The National Archives. More generally, TNA also have several research guides on the subject of finance, business and industry archives, and how to locate, access and understand the records.
Even if a business maintains an archive of its own records generally these are private collections and there is no statutory obligation for them to publicise the archive’s existence or allow public access.
There is no regional or centralised business records archive, so records relating to a particular industry or region are likely to be scattered across several different repositories. Many universities and local authority record offices hold business archives, particularly of small, local businesses.
Industries like mining and manufacturing tended to have sites spread over several counties. We have some records relating to other counties in the East Midlands, but there are complementary records held in archives across the region that researchers may find useful.
In particular, Nottinghamshire Archives holds records relating to a variety of businesses within the county, including local collieries, and a collection of National Coal Board photographs from 1939-1982. They can be found in their Deposited Records series (references DD or M) by searching their online catalogue.
Derbyshire Record Office has a number of collections relating to early water and electricity companies, mining, and textiles manufacture. These can be searched by business type from their online Record Office Guide.
Large collections of lace, hosiery and textiles records are held by Nottinghamshire Archives, who have compiled a pdf of their holdings, and some 75,000 documents and samples of lace are in Nottingham Trent University's Lace Archive at their School of Art and Design.
There are particular areas where our collections are strong, but we don’t have the complete records of any particular industry. National companies which do not maintain their own corporate archives are likely to have deposited them in the city where their headquarters are based. Another important source for business history is the records of professional organisations and societies. Although we have some records of the Nottingham branch of the Chamber of Commerce, many of these organisations retain their own libraries and archives.
Industries that were nationalised are likely to have significant collections in The National Archives, which is the repository for the British government. Of interest may be their Research Guide to Mines and Mining.
The Museum of English Rural Life has, despite its name, significant records of major organisations connected with agriculture and the countryside.
Industrial relations and Trade Union records are strongly represented in the University of Warwick’s Modern Records Centre and the Trades Union Congress Library Collections at London Metropolitan University. The collections at Warwick include the Transport & General Workers’ Union and the Confederation of British Industry. The TUC collections are largely printed, but include archives of several unions such as the Workers Educational Union, and form a major research library for the study of British trades unions and collective bargaining.
Descriptions of all the business collections are available to browse on the Manuscripts Online Catalogue.
There are many industry-specific guides published, but the following may be a useful source of general information. These and many other introductory guides can be found in the library catalogue:
- Francis Goodall, Terry Gourvish and Steven Tolliday (editors), International bibliography of business history, 1997 (Ref: Hallward Library 3/Ref HD2321.I6)
- Eric D Probert, Company and Business Records for Family Historians, 1991 (Ref: Hallward Library Pamphlet CS434.P7)
- Lesley Richmond & Alison Turton (eds.), Directory of corporate archives: a guide to British business which maintain archive facilities, 1997 (Ref: King’s Meadow Campus Ref HD2713.D4)
- Orbell, John, A Guide to Tracing the History of a Business, 1987 (Ref: King’s Meadow Campus HD2321.O7) and 2009
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