What can the collections be used for?
Because of their wide range and continuity, family and estate collections have enormous research and study potential. Though many of the collections will have common features, the huge variety that is inherent within them makes generalisation difficult. However, the following provide useful pointers:
- Family and estate collections can be a rich source of geographical, topographical, agricultural, economic, social, political and cultural information.
- They may provide evidence for the study of land usage and tenure, illustrating developments such as enclosure, and even allowing patterns of cultivation, changing farming practice, or changing prices to be charted.
- They may reveal the movement away from land as the main source of family wealth, towards other forms of income and investment.
- They may also contain evidence relating to developing industrialisation - coal mining, factories and so on - and to the development of an area's infrastructure, such as the construction of railways, roads and canals.
- From family and estate collections it may be possible to chart the history and development of a particular building, or to investigate urban history and study the changing face of particular cities and towns.
- The collections may give an insight into inheritance patterns or into attitudes towards institutions such as marriage or the Church, and they can shed light on subjects ranging from genealogy, place names, and architecture through to community developments.
- Finally, the personal papers of members of the landed families may contain vital evidence about the politics or diplomacy of the day.
In providing such a vast wealth of information, then, family and estate collections will provide resources relevant to a wide group of researchers.
Next page: Who might find the collections useful?