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The Queen launches project to place King George III's private archive online

Posted on 01/04/2015

A project to digitise King George III's private papers was launched today in the presence of The Queen at Windsor Castle. 

The collaboration between King’s College London and the Royal Archives will make the complete collection of King George III's papers available online. It will commence in the coming weeks and will result in the digitisation of historic documents from the Royal Archives, making them widely available for the first time.

The project will include the digitisation of all the historic manuscripts from the Georgian period, totalling more than 350,000 pages, of which only about 15% have previously been published. While the vast majority of the collection comprises papers from George III, papers from Kings George I, George II, George IV and William IV will also be made available.

It is hoped that the work will transform the understanding of Georgian Britain and its monarchy, at a time of profound cultural, political, economic and social change which created the modern nation.

Professor Edward Byrne, President and Principal of King’s College London, said: ‘King’s was founded by King George IV – George III’s eldest son and successor – and with Her Majesty The Queen as our present day Patron, we are delighted and honoured to have been approached by the Royal Household to work on this prestigious project and to continue our long history of association with the Crown. This joint project, to open up over a century of Royal Archives, provides an unprecedented scale of opportunity to discover more about the Georgians.’

King’s has an historic association with the Georgian Archives. The bulk of a collection of scientific instruments accumulated by King George III and others was donated by Queen Victoria to King’s in 1841 for public display and use in scientific demonstrations and experiments. The university converted one of its libraries into a museum for the purpose of exhibiting these and the George III Museum in the King’s Building at the Strand was opened on 22 June 1843 by Queen Victoria’s husband Albert, Prince Consort. 

The university’s Departments of Digital Humanities, War Studies and History and the Centre for Enlightenment Studies will all bring expertise to the digitising and exploration of the archives.


Professor Adam Sutcliffe, Head of History, said: ‘The early history of King’s itself, and of the Somerset House site we occupy, is closely bound up in this Georgian endeavour of global inquiry, so we are the ideal academic partner for this project. Our History Department, and our newly founded Centre for Enlightenment Studies at King’s, is rich in expertise on Georgian Britain, and its links with Germany, North America, India and beyond. 

‘We look forward to working closely with the Royal Household over the coming five years and to developing an exciting programme of research, scholarly debate and public events in connection with the digitisation and interpretation of this vast and rich royal archive.’

Professor Andrew Lambert, Naval Historian in the Department of War Studies, said: ‘This archive offers access to a startling transformation that lies at the heart of British identity. In 50 years the Hanoverians went from German interlopers to British icons, while the first George was German soldier, his great-great grandson William IV was that most unique of national heroes, a British Admiral. The reconstruction of the Hanoverian dynastic brand for a British audience was carefully contrived and wholly successful.’ 

The project is part of a wider programme of work by the Royal Archives to open up access to its primary source material, following the success of the digitisation of Queen Victoria's journals in 2012.  The intention is to create a rich internet resource which will be open to academics and the public alike, which will present the documents and allow them to be searched and analysed in creative and flexible ways.

The Georgian Papers Programme is expected to transform historical research and understanding of Britain and its monarchy and a crucial period in British and world history.  It will be of particular value to universities, schools, academics and authors in the UK, the Commonwealth and overseas.

Dr Joanna Newman, Vice Principal (International), said: ‘Collaborating with the Royal Archives to create a complete online collection of George III’s manuscripts provides King’s with a fantastic opportunity to bring together academics from across the university, drawing on King’s interdisciplinary strengths and continuing its historic connection with the Georgian archives. It will involve a series of partnerships, working with institutions including the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture and the William and Mary College in the United States. ‘ 

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