New resource to chase civil war ancestors

Wednesday 17 May 2017

The Institute of Historical Research (IHR) at the School of Advanced Study has published a remarkable new biographical work, charting the lives of more than 4,000 officers who fought for Parliament during the first English Civil War of 1642-46. Entitled, Cromwell Association Directory of Parliamentarian Army Officers, it is a work of extensive scholarship which promises to transform historians’ understanding of those who took up arms against Charles I.

The Directory appears as a searchable and browsable text within British History Online (BHO), the IHR’s digital library of key printed and primary and secondary sources in medieval and early modern British and Irish history. It recreates the lives and military careers of many hundreds of previously little-known Parliamentarian officers, with a particular focus on the years 1642–45 before the creation of the New Model Army.

Entries range from a sentence for the most obscure individuals to close to 1,000 words for major figures. Where known, information is provided on family background and social networks, as well as details of the armies in which each officer served and the sources used to assemble a life. These biographies are freely available via British History Online and are published using a Creative Commons licence which permits the downloading of the full text in its XML-mark up version. With this, historians will be able to undertake new research by searching and grouping the officers by age and place of origin, among other attributes.

The Directory has been prepared for publication by the British History Online editorial team, who are members of the IHR’s Digital research department. The new collection is one example of a growing number of titles added to BHO as ‘born-digital’ resources – works created specifically for online publication or which, having existed online in other formats, now find a permanent home as part of this widely-used resource for the study of British and Irish history.

Similar titles recently added to BHO include The Court of Chivalry database which records trials brought for defamation and insult during the 1630s. Born-digital publications of this kind highlight the increasing importance attached to preserving and promoting web-based research, together with BHO’s contribution to digital sustainability for completed and current projects.

The Cromwell Association Directory of Parliamentarian Army Officers was launched on 17 May at an event organised jointly by the IHR and the Cromwell Association and held at the Institute. Research and publication was funded by the Cromwell Association with generous assistance from the Marc Fitch Fund and the Aurelius Trust.