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Level 6

6AAHCF01 At the Court of King George III: Exploring the Royal Archives


Credit value: 15
Module convenor/tutorProfessor Arthur Burns
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour seminars
Availability: Please check module list
Assessment: 1 x presentation of Group Project (10%); 1 x Digital edition of item from the Royal Archive (90%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

The reign of King George III from 1760 to 1820 was one of the longest in British history, and encompassed some of the most dramatic developments in Britain’s modern history: the American Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars; significant social change associated with industrialization and urbanization; the rise of political parties and radicalism; a key phase in the expansion of the British empire and exploration; key developments in literary, musical and artistic culture; and the emergence of key lineaments of the modern state. George himself is a monarch of exceptional interest, controversially but closely engaged in affairs of state save for those periods when he was famously the victim of mental illness, keenly interested in culture, the arts and science, and with a rich family and social life. The archives associated with this monarch held at Windsor Castle are exceptionally rich and voluminous and in many cases largely unexplored. They contain manuscript documents, correspondence in several languages, music and state papers.

King’s College London is currently working with the Royal Household to digitize these archives and make them more widely accessible through the Georgian Papers programme. This module gives students an extraordinary opportunity to experience this project and learn how scholars in a range of disciplines engage with an archive and help interpret it to both scholarly and wider public audiences. During the course they will have an opportunity to learn about the history of George’s reign from a range of expert scholars, in preparation for themselves selecting, and then editing and preparing an edition of a document from the archive. The best of these will be made public. Throughout the module they will receive training and guidance on how to prepare an edition to a high scholarly standard – through transcription, annotation and contextualization - and have the opportunity to practise these techniques in a group project before embarking on their chosen assignment.

The module will be led by Professor Arthur Burns, an experienced editor and historian of late Hanoverian Britain. No prior training as a historian or editor is required, and the module is aimed at students from across the range of Humanities disciplines. Students will also have the opportunity to benefit from a range of academic events and projects associated with the digitization project taking place in King’s College.  It will equip students with a variety of highly transferable skills of equal value to pursuing postgraduate academic study and a wide range of employment options.

The module is supported by a rich array of online resources including filmed interviews with historians, a full bibliography, databases and links.

Provisional Teaching Plan

  1. An Audience with King George
  2. Themes in Georgian History
  3. Academic Editing for Beginners
  4. Transcription and Annotation
  5. Choosing your Project
  6. Going Digital
  7. Group Presentations and Academic Workshop
  8. Surgery no 1: Academic Issues in Interpretation and Contextualization
  9. Surgery no. 2: Issues in Transcription, Digitization and Annotation
  10. Presentations

Core reading 


The reading for the course is determined by the individual students’ interests. But four good places to start are:

John Cannon, ‘George III’, in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography  (2004)

Alan Bennett (writer) and Nick Hytner (director), The Madness of King George (film, 1994)

John Bridcut (director), The Genius of the Mad King (Crux Productions for the BBC, 2017)

The Georgian Papers Programme Website:


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