Practical guidelines on using primary sources

Using the Churchill Archives Centre

Discuss your project with your teacher and with the Archives Centre staff to assess the feasibility of using material held at Churchill Archives Centre and to find out which collections may hold relevant information.

Make an appointment T: 01223 336222 or E: archives@chu.cam.ac.uk before you visit the Archives Centre. This could save you a lot of time if the items you would like to see are unavailable for any reason.

Bring some form of identification or a letter of introduction from your teacher with you on your first visit in order to register with us.

The Archives Centre is not 'self service' and you can't borrow archival material. You need to look through catalogues and lists and decide which items you would like to see. Then fill out an order slip with the reference code (e.g. CHAR 2/1) of the item you would like to see, your name and the date.

Always follow the reading room rules which are there to protect the archives:

You can take photographs of the archives here for a small daily charge, or order scans or photographs of material which might be useful to illustrate a project. There is a charge for this service.

Churchill Archives Centre is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.

Using archival sources

Leave time to look through lists, catalogues and documents: you may not be able to find exactly what you want straight away.

Prepare for your visit by using secondary (printed) sources: this will focus your mind on the project and will probably avoid you wasting time looking at irrelevant material.

Leave time to look at the primary sources: remember that you can be slowed down by having to decipher difficult handwriting. The Archives Centre staff may be able to help you with difficult handwriting so don't be afraid to ask for help.

This document is part of a letter from Elizabeth Everest, Winston Churchill's nanny, to young Winston. It was written on 2 November 1891 and shows how difficult it can be to read older handwriting. Compare the image of the document with the text below..

Letter from Elizabeth Everest, Winston Churchill's nanny, to young Winston. Reference: Churchill Papers, CHAR 1/4/18

... &they have not begun to do it yet. Edney comes up on Friday for good. Have you enquired if they have thatched the top of your Den yet? Have you got the instrument yet you were having made does it answer? I have no news to tell you but one request to make that is will you kindly favor me with a few lines. Out of sight out of mind with Winny. Goodbye my Lamb best love to you.

- Ever yourloving old W.E.A.E. [?Womany Elizabeth Ann Everest]

[sketch] My photo

Letter from Elizabeth Everest, Winston Churchill's nanny, to young WinstonReference: Churchill Papers, CHAR 1/4/18

While you are making notes, take the details of the reference codes of the material you are looking at (e.g. CHAR 2/1/4). These are essential for ordering photocopies and should be used when quoting from archival material. It can also avoid you having to go back through the same material looking for something again.

For further information, please contact Katherine Thomson:

Email:Katharine Thomson.