This month’s ‘Resources for Historians’ is a change from our usual review of useful websites. Instead the resource under scrutiny is a series of publications whose purpose is to guide readers through various source materials that would be of potential use to historians. While the series title points out that these are primarily geared toward local history there is much in the series that is of use to the study of a wide range of subjects.
The books follow a set format with the first chapter giving an introduction to the context of the sources’ creation and the uses to which they were put. This chapter is in essence a history of the sources. This gives the historian an insight into the available sources and the limitations imposed by their creation. This is followed by a chapter on accessing the sources, providing an overview of the various archives that hold the material under investigation and how to access them. The final chapter normally provides hints as to the potential uses to which the sources under investigation can be used. The books are normally finished with appendices that give an overview of the resources that are available.
An example of the material covered by these books is Jacinta Prunty’s Maps and map-making in local history (Disclaimer Jacinta Prunty is the author’s Ph.D. supervisor). The book provides an introduction to the world of maps and provides the reader with the essential knowledge needed to read, understand and use maps as historical sources. It guides the reader through the nature of maps, the manner of their creation with particular reference to map-making in Ireland. The book then provides all the information needed to locate and assess the main body of maps needed for a local or national study of Ireland.
Other very useful guides in the series are C.J. Woods, Travellers’ accounts as source material for Irish historians; in addition to an introduction the book has annotations of over 200 accounts and a bibliography. Indexes of travellers and places at the end of the book allow the reader to trace either individual travellers or allow one to enquire into any traveller accounts of a particular area. The same format is seen in Raymond Refausse’s, Church of Ireland records which provides a guide to published catalogues, editions of archives and manuscripts of the Church of Ireland as well as a guide to the main repositories for Church of Ireland records (a second edition of this book was published in 2006).
Other books in the series include Business archival sources for the local historian; A guide to sources for the history of Irish education, 1780-1922; Medieval Gaelic sources; The big houses and landed estates of Ireland: a research guide; Exploring the history and heritage of Irish landscapes; Sources for the study of crime in Ireland, 1801-1921; A guide to Irish military heritage; Counting the people: a survey of the Irish censuses, 1813-1911; Medieval record sources, Pre-census sources for Irish demography.
These guides are a highly recommended starting point for students, amateur historians or even experienced historians who are seeking to expand and understand the range of potential resources that are available to them.
See the complete series of Maynooth Research Guides in Local History available at Four Courts Press: