The Stuart Papers – part of our microfilms of mansuscripts collection are the feature of our occassional series on visitors to the reading room, the material they choose and the research that they are conducting.
John Bergin of Queen’s University Belfast has been using the microfilms.
The Stuart Papers are of course a very large and very famous collection, which can hardly be ignored by anyone interested in Jacobitism or Catholics in Britain or Ireland, from c. 1690 to at least the mid-18th century. One of my interests is in Irish Catholics and their politics in this period. The papers have been calendered in their entirety to 1718, and extensive selections from the subsequent years have been published in P. Fagan (ed.), Ireland in the Stuart Papers (2 vols, Dublin, 1995).
I wanted to test how good the calendars were for the years to 1718 (excellent, it appears), and to see how complete Ireland in the Stuart Papers is. The latter a more complicated question, and there is certainly material omitted which I was able to examine on microfilm. Though Ireland in the Stuart Papers is an immensely useful edition, it did not include, e.g., correspondence of Daniel Macnamara (1720-1800), an important Irish Catholic lawyer in London who acted as an intermediary between Charles Edward Stuart and his English supporters in the mid-18th century.
The microfilms were easy to use, thanks to the very full card index, created and kept with the original papers in the Royal Archives at Windsor, but also microfilmed. It was especially convenient that Senate House Library has printed these indexes from microfilm, and bound them in 5 volumes; this made reference very fast. Furthermore, Senate House’s superb microfilm viewing and scanning machine made capture and saving of images very easy.
This is certainly the largest single microfilm collection I have ever consulted (well over 550 reels), and the prospect was rather daunting in advance. Senate House’s combination of good organisation, excellent technology and very helpful staff made it suprisingly manageable, and made my visit very productive.”