Research resources

Information about primary and secondary sources for researching our history, created to support our So that they may have life volunteer research and interpretation projects. We will be adding to this page so please check back regularly, and send any suggestions of additional material to us at

Historical methods

This section lists some useful, and freely available, guides to historical research and interpretation. These are intended to help with thinking about how you can approach your projects.

Building and Enriching Shared Heritages. This was a University of Leicester project run a few years ago to develop training resources for community historians. Some of the material is now slightly dated, but there are still a number of very useful guides to research and interpretation. You can find these by following the links to the sections below.

Jonathan Hogg (ed.), Using Primary Sources (Liverpool University Press, 2020) (Open access textbook on using primary sources for different historical periods. There isn’t a specific ‘University histories’ chapter, but sections on Business History and Non-Governmental Organisations are the closest match. There are a number of other chapters that you may find interesting to read, including Mental Health, Crime History, Race and Ethnicity, and Memory.)

Many people and subjects associated with the history of the University are covered by Wikipedia articles. The Wikimedia foundation has created a very useful document on evaluating Wikipedia articles. While the quality of these can vary, they can also be a very useful starting point for further research.

If you are interested in a more extended programme of self-guided learning on local history, the Creating Local Linkages website contains some useful resources. It is aimed at public librarians in the United States, but much of the content is relevant to researching local history in the UK.

Secondary sources

David Baker, Leicester University Library: A History to 1961 (Leicester: University of Leicester Library, 1961) (Not available online)

Siobhan Begley, ‘Voluntary Associations and the Civic Ideal in Leicester 1870-1939’ (University of Leicester PhD thesis, 2009) (See especially Chapter 6 on the 1922 Bazaar & Fete for the College fund)

Brian Burch, The University of Leicester: A History, 1921-1926 (Leicester: University of Leicester, 1996) (Not available online)

Simon Dixon, ‘Let us offer higher education as our war memorial’, paper presented to Leicestershire County Council’s Century of Stories conference, November 2018.

De Montfort University, DMU at 150

Leicester Museums, Ernest Gimson and the Arts and Crafts Movement in Leicester

Arthur Lyons, The Architecture of the Universities of Leicester (s.l.: Anchor Print Group, 2012) (Not available online)

Our History: Historical content covering the early history of the University (These pages are currently being transferred to this project website)

Jack Simmons, New University (Leicester: University of Leicester Press, 1958) (Not available online)

Special Collections Exhibitions, ‘Women in Our History’

Special Collections Exhibitions, ‘The University of Leicester and World War I’

Special Collections Exhibitions, ‘University of Leicester Founding Donors’ (Searchable database and clickable map of founding donors to the University)

Special Collections Staffblogs. Members of the Special Collections team regularly write blog posts about our collections, including some about our University History. Browse through the posts to find stories from our archives and updates on the work of the team.

William Whyte, Redbrick: A Social and Architectural history of Britain’s Civic Universities (Oxford: OUP, 2015) (Useful overview of the history of British higher education in the 19th and 20th centuries)

Primary sources

Our publicly available collection of digitised material from the University Archives can be found on our Special Collections Online website. This guide highlights the resources that are most likely to be useful for our So that they may have life research strands. Over the coming weeks, we will be making a wider range of primary sources available to project volunteers on our Google Drive platform. Details of these will follow soon.

ULA/D2/1, Scrapbook on the foundation and early development of University College Leicester compiled by Dr Astley Clarke (1912-1937). Astley Clarke was one of the key figures in the founding of the University of Leicester, and was at the forefront of fundraising efforts including making the first donation to the College fund in 1918. He scrupulously collected press cuttings and other documents detailing the founding of the University in his scrapbook which has been digitised in full and can be accessed via our website.

ULA/HIS/FOU/1, Golden Book. The Golden Book of the Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland College. Bound in blue leather, decorated with gold and red flowers with gold on foredges. Handwritten list of donors to the College. 8 pages only complete. The book was produced by the City School of Arts and Crafts, Leicester, which later became part of De Montfort University.

ULA/HIS/FOU/2, Memorial portraits. Memorial portraits of those associated with the founding of the College, with manuscript biographies. The portraits are primarily of individuals in whose memory in memoriam gifts were given in support of Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland College at, or shortly after, its foundation. Photographs and biographies were collected from family members of the deceased between 1921 and 1931, originally by W. G. Gibbs, the first College Secretary, and later by his successor, L. M. Sear.

ULA/P/AR, Annual Reports (1922-1939). Annual reports provide the most accessible overview of College developments during our early years. They typically contain names of key office holders in the College and the Report of the College Council describing academic developments, details of building works, staff appointments, and summary information on College finances. Early reports also contain lists of degrees awarded to College students, summary information on student numbers and places of origin, and awards of bursaries and scholarships. The reports also contain financial accounts, lists of donors, and details of donations received.

ULA/P/PS, Prospectuses (1922-1957). Very different to the glossy marketing materials produced by Universities today, early prospectuses are a useful supplement to the information contained in annual reports. They list the names of academic and professional staff, brief summaries of the curriculum for each course offered, course fees, and information on the living arrangements prospective students could expect when they arrived at the College. They are also an excellent source of photographs of the campus and facilities.

ULA/P/BU1, Bulletin (1965-1979). An extremely useful source for the history of the University after the award of or charter in 1957, these staff newsletters contain information on academic appointments, resignations, general university business, student numbers, departmental updates and other staff news.

University Archives, photograph collection. Over the last few years we have been making selected photographs from our archives available online. These range from official photographs taken for publicity purposes to casual snapshots taken by staff and students. Chronological coverage varies, but there is good representation for the early decades of our history. We are extremely grateful to all our volunteers who are helping to improve the catalogue descriptions for these photographs.

Interview with Nora Waddington. This short but fascinating interview with one of our early students describes College life during the 1920s.

Research resources available through your local library

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some online research resources that are usually only available onsite in public libraries can be accessed from home. Members of Leicestershire Libraries can access Ancestry Library and Find My Past from home by following the instructions on the Leicestershire County Council website. Members of Leicester City Council Libraries can also access Ancestry Library from home. A number of people associated with our history have entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which can also be accessed from home through most public libraries. A good way to find them is to use the Advanced Search and search full text for “University of Leicester” or “University College, Leicester”.