Manuscripts and Special Collections

Using Business Records

What types of records are found in business collections?

A wealth of different records are found within our business collections, although because of the wide variety in the type of business, contemporary recordkeeping requirements and times periods, not all of our collections contain every record type.

Ideally, a business archive should include any documents relating to the founding of the business and those that provide information about reflect the structure, and its products or services. In small, family-owned businesses, such as those in the hosiery and textiles manufacturing, the distinction between personal and business records frequently blurs.
Many of the business collections here have significant gaps in their archives, but some of the most significant documents types we have are:

  • Legal papers 
  • Corporate governance, including minutes and reports 
  • Accounting papers, including share ledgers and annual accounts 
  • Property records, including mortgages, plans and leases 
  • Correspondence 
  • Promotional material, including photographs, magazines, advertisements and one-off commemorative publications 
  • Staff records, including handbooks, staff clubs and societies, accident books, salary records and long service records

The majority of the collections are for companies which are no longer in operation. We are not expecting any additional material to be added to these collections, although occasionally some of the ‘missing’ documents will be located and added to the archive.

Some collections have been catalogued in great detail, giving descriptions of each individual item or bundle whereas others have been only briefly described. The Manuscripts Online Catalogue contains overall descriptions of each business-related manuscript collections.

What they are used for?

Business records are incredibly varied and this makes generalising their uses difficult. Some of the more obvious uses have included publishing corporate histories, celebrating anniversaries, and inspiring advertising campaigns.

The Industrial Revolution was a pivotal time in history and the resulting economic, political and social development can be traced through the historical records. Textiles was one of the first industries to be modernised, and mining expanded as demands for coal for steam-powered engines increased. Both were dominant industries in the East Midlands and the records not only contain evidence relating to developing industrialisation, but also to the development of Nottingham’s infrastructure, such as the construction of railways and canals.

Local businesses can have a profound influence on life and the community, and the success or failure of particularly important industries have defined communities in the region. The records are incredibly important resources for local historians or those researching the history of a particular trade. Family historians use them to trace records and photographs of relatives who were employed by the business. The advertising and marketing materials demonstrate changes in social attitudes and the sorts of products and services used in daily life. As legislation was introduced to protect workers’ health and safety, there is a correlating increase in the records businesses were obliged to keep, such as monitoring working hours of children.

Business archives also allow business, economics and history students to learn from the successes and failures of the past. How and when businesses respond to changes in technology, society or economics can determine their success, and the records can show the decisions, assumptions and methods that can influence modern-day approaches to similar situations.

Next page: Related collections held elsewhere
















Certificate of Incorporation, BEB 6-1


Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4565
fax: +44 (0) 115 846 8651