The study of history depends on the sources that survive. Our understanding of diverse aspects of the human experience in modern times can only be built up if we study the documents, publications, artworks and objects of the period.

The University’s Special Collections holds significant records from recent centuries. These include the archives of business, organisations and families – including political papers of Astor family; personal archives including those of journalists and writers; and extraordinary collections of printed ephemera.

The Museum of English Rural Life shows how the modern world was shaped by changes to agriculture and the countryside. Its collections show how industry moved from the village to the town, how farm workers and communities became organised, and how changes to the land affected different groups of people.

Our archive and library collections cover the local and the global.

The archives of the School of East German Studies form a nationally significant resource of literary materials chronicling recent East German history. The contents of its collection span from the years of the German Democratic Republic through to the Soviet occupation (1945-1949) and the post-unification period (1990 onwards). There are books, journals, magazines, political ephemera, videos, and more.


The University of Reading’s Heritage & Creativity research shines a spotlight on the past and reflects on the value of humanities research to the people of today.

Focusing on contemporary global challenges, we promote public debate on issues such as migration and diaspora, health and (dis)ability, and the role of heritage and the creative industries in promoting inclusion and diversity.

Our work is informed by engagement with archives and material culture and the exchange between creativity and digital platforms. Academics use collections to foster innovative collaborations and partnerships.

Examples of recent projects include Diasporic Literary Archives and Astor 100.


Nancy Astor

The first woman MP to take her seat in the House of Commons (in 1919), Nancy Astor was never far from controversy and her political and personal papers throw light on some of the most significant moments of the Twentieth century.

Robert Dawson Romany Collection

Robert Dawson has spent over 50 years researching and writing about Britain’s traditional travellers. This collection consists of papers relating to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people including research and writings by Dawson, press cuttings and educational work.

Landscapes of State Industry

From the construction of towering coal-fired power plants, to laying out the infrastructure of National Gas and HS2, our landscapes have been transformed in the last one hundred years, as this online exhibition shows.