Books, pamphlets, and ephemera at Oxfordshire History Centre

From 400 year-old printed texts to new histories about Oxfordshire and the lives of its people.

County, town and village histories

A comprehensive collection of the published histories of Oxfordshire towns and villages is held at the History Centre. These range from early parish histories to the latest research by local historians and local history societies. To discover what is available, visit our online catalogue Heritage Search.

The multi-volume Victoria County History of Oxfordshire provides an authoritative history of the county. Research began at the beginning of the 20th century and currently, 19 volumes have been published, covering two-thirds of the county. Work is progressing on further volumes and draft texts can be found on their website. Four books covering Berkshire were published between 1906 and 1927 which contain information on parts of the county that were transferred to Oxfordshire in 1974. These are all available in hard copy at the History Centre. Parts of volume 1 and 2 and the full text of volumes 3 to18 of the Oxfordshire VCH (and parts of the Berkshire volumes) are also available online.

City of Oxford history

The History Centre holds an extensive collection of publications concerning the history of the city and its environs. These range from major published works, including the city volume of Victoria County History of Oxfordshire to locally produced pamphlets. Details of titles held on the many subjects covered can be found on Heritage Search. Of particular note is our collection of guides to the City of Oxford, the earliest of which dates back to 1759.

University of Oxford history

The History Centre collection includes selected publications relating to the history of the University of Oxford, and its colleges and institutions. The includes the authoritative eight-volume History of the University of Oxford (OUP, 1984-2000) and histories published by the colleges, museums, libraries, and other institutions of the university. Our collection of 19th and 20th-century publications, together with more recent works, covers topics such as architectural history, the history of university education and student life in Oxford. Published registers of alumni are also held.

Details of titles can be found on Heritage Search. The catalogue of Oxfordshire History Centre’s Local Studies collections can also be searched on the University of Oxford’s online catalogue SOLO but please note this does not include Oxfordshire History Centre’s archive collections or photographic and oral history collections.

Archaeology, architecture, and historic buildings

Books and pamphlets published on the archaeology, architecture and historic buildings of Oxfordshire are a significant aspect of the History Centre collections. These include antiquarian works, historic sales catalogues, and recent publications.

Holdings include publications and unpublished reports in either hardcopy or digital format that were previously held by The Oxfordshire Historic Environment Record (HER) - formerly the Sites and Monuments Record (SMR). Details of hardcopy items available for reference at Oxfordshire History Centre can found on Heritage Search. Fully searchable digital format reports can be accessed onsite at Oxfordshire History Centre or in Oxfordshire Libraries via our digital store.

Some Historic Building Assessment reports deposited by their authors are also held. Hardcopies are available for reference at Oxfordshire History Centre and are catalogued on Heritage Search

For further assistance with locating reports in these collections please contact us

Central and local government publications

Selected central and local government publications originally published in hardcopy are held in addition to Oxfordshire History Centre’s archive collections – see Running the county.

 Holdings include:

  • Historic legislation: Public and local acts of Parliament in their original published form
  • Statistical reports of the national census
  • Minutes, reports and plans, other publications issued by local authorities, the police and the fire and rescue service in Oxfordshire
  • A variety of reports, periodicals, and guides to the services of the NHS in Oxfordshire from 1948 onwards.  Oxfordshire Health Archives collections are also located at Oxfordshire History Centre.

Further details can be found on Heritage Search or contact us with your enquiry.

Social and economic history of Oxfordshire

Among the wide range of historic publications and published histories held at Oxfordshire History Centre are books and pamphlets concerning:

  • Transport and communications including roads from turnpike to motorway, the River Thames and its tributaries, the Oxford Canal, buses, trams and Oxfordshire’s motor industry
  • Trade and industry including shop and business histories, rural crafts and trades
  • Agriculture including historic reports on farming and land use, land enclosure, and histories of agricultural life
  • Schools and education including published school histories
  • Welfare charities and friendly societies including reports of 19th-century charities and the institutions they supported
  • Local political, charitable, and campaigning organisations
  • Sports and social organisations and the events they have held.

Details of titles can be found on Heritage Search

For current information, Oxfordshire County Council’s Insight website includes a wide range of statistical data and information about life in the county.

Biographical sources and biographies

Oxfordshire History Centre’s collections include:

  • Biographies and autobiographies of people in public life in Oxfordshire
  • Locally published biographies, diaries, and reminiscences of Oxfordshire’s people
  • Selected national and local guides to people in public life e.g. Who’s who in Oxfordshire (published 1936) and Crockford’s Clerical Directory
  • Local history research on Oxfordshire lives
  • An historic collection of the fiction and poetry of selected Oxfordshire authors.

Details of titles can be found on Heritage Search

Further resources are available for family history

Transcripts of historical sources

Published transcripts of historical documents provide a convenient way of accessing historical information. Those produced in hardcopy are held in the History Centre collections of books and pamphlets and are catalogued on Heritage Search These include:

Printed ephemera

The collection of published works held at Oxfordshire History Centre includes a wide variety of nineteenth and twentieth century printed ephemera including:

  • Local election ephemera
  • Public transport timetables and tickets
  • Programmes and posters of plays, concerts and other public events
  • Advertising brochures produced by Morris Motors and other local firms
  • Postcards (many of which are digitised on PictureOxon)

Many items are catalogued on Heritage Search but contact us for items that may be held in uncatalogued collections.