The National Archives is the repository of the national archive of England, Wales and the United Kingdom. It was founded by act of Parliament in 1838 to bring together and preserve the records of Central Government and the courts of law, making them available to all who wished to consult them. The records, beginning with the Domesday Book (1086), span an unbroken period from the 11th century to the present day.
The National Archives is therefore the treasure house of the nation's memory and included on its 90 miles of shelving are a hugely diverse range of historical documents such as returns for parliamentary elections in 1275, lists of Elizabeth I's jewels, Shakespeare's will, Guy Fawkes' confession, and the first American newspaper.
There is also Captain Bligh's account of the mutiny on The Bounty, Napoleon's post mortem, decrypts of the British Ambassador's despatches describing the start of the Russian Revolution, the abdication instrument signed by Edward VIII, minutes of Churchill's War Cabinet and 617 squadron's account of the destruction of the Mohne and Eder dams.
The National Archives of England, Wales and the United Kingdom has one of the largest archival collections in the world, spanning 1000 years of British history, from Domesday Book of 1086 to government papers recently released to the public.
You can see this collection at Kew, West London, or view certain documents online. Records are open on transfer unless they contain information covered by an exemption. If you want to see a record that has not been released, you can submit a Freedom of Information request. We will review the record, in consultation with the government department, which transferred it to us. If it is no longer subject to a Freedom of Information exemption, the information will be released to you. Under the Freedom of Information Act, anyone in the world can request information held at The National Archives.
The National Archives also acts as a clearing-house for information about the location of non-public records and manuscripts relating to British history kept elsewhere in the UK and overseas.
We give detailed guidance to government departments and the public sector on best practice in records management, as well as selecting public records of enduring historical value which will be kept for ever. We also advise custodians throughout the public and private sectors about the care of historical archives.
The National Archives is an invaluable resource for academic researchers, local historians, genealogists and many other groups of readers.
Phone lines are open from Monday to Saturday. You can call us between 08:00 and 17:00 (or 08.00 and 19.00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays).
The National Archives Kew