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At the beginning of April I spent a week at the National Archives in Kew on a training week funded by the AHRC. Having spent a lot of time in archives in the previous couple of years I had assumed that I knew how to use the archives and that the biggest thing I would get out of it would be perhaps a new archive or two to use, but I was wrong. The week was really interesting and had I learnt a LOT of new things, including how to use government indexed texts and the importance of reading the guides on the webpages.

A letter about Cholera from the National Archives

I also got a lot of inspiration for future projects. Some of the really interesting archives I looked at included criminal court records and the education records. The National Archives hold the records of the Assizes court (the court that tried the ‘big’ cases) and using these you can trace the history of criminals and court cases. Perhaps these records could provide the basis for a historical fiction novel (well, you have to fund a PhD somehow right?!) The education records were also really interesting – the archives contain information about all the schools in London, what type of schools they were, the numbers of students, the lessons they held and how many pupils were in each class. This sort of information could be really useful to my project as it will help to establish the formal religious education that young people received in the 1870s and therefore whether the informal education was really lacking or not.

Educational Return held at the National Archives

The week was really interesting and useful and hopefully I will be able to use the information in this and other projects – and look out for my historical novel soon!!