Research Guides

London Lives has been designed to facilitate historical research on poverty, crime and illness, and on social conditions more broadly, as reflected in institutional records. While these institutions and the documents they created are explained in depth on other background pages, these Research Guides are aimed to support specific thematic enquiries on the experiences of non-elite Londoners, and to help you interpret eighteenth-century manuscripts. Each of the thematic pages includes a list of research questions and links to exemplary lives.

An old man and obese woman lean over a bed picking bugs from the sheets Thomas Rowlandson. Summer Amusement. Bug Hunting. July 1811. Lewis Walpole Library, 811.6.4.1. © Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

How to Interpret an Eighteenth-Century Manuscript
Documents as Collections of Acts, Archives as Systems, Survival, The Social Meaning of Literacy, Palaeography.

Researching Apprentices
Parish, Bridewell, Guilds and Hospitals, Disputes, The Experience of Apprenticeship and After.

Researching Bastardy
Examinations, Parish Support, Criminal Consequences.

Researching Crime
Felonies, Misdemeanours.

Researching Illness
The Parish, Hospitals, Coroners' Inquests.

Researching Poverty
The County and the City, The Parish, Hospitals and Guilds.

Researching Work
Occupations, Working Practices, Working for the Parish.


If you are just getting started, further background information is available on the Historical Background pages and in the descriptions of individual Document Types.

For detailed reading lists on these subjects, see the London Lives Bibliography.