The National Archives

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Descriptions of records created by central government and the courts of law of England and Wales.


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The National Archives holds over 11 million historical government and public records, one of the largest archive collections in the world. From Domesday Book to modern government papers and digital files, our collection includes paper and parchment, electronic records and websites, photographs, posters, maps, drawings and paintings.

Discovery is The National Archives' catalogue (replacing the older Catalogue), which has been designed to host, search and display the many different databases and datasets held at The National Archives. This provides a more robust and integrated system to manage current and future data and storage needs, along with a consistent and seamless user experience.

Discovery also replaced the DocumentsOnline service, enabling users to search the collection and download digitised documents (where available), all in one place.


This resource is of relevance to historians of the British Isles in a wide range of fields, including political, ecclesiastical, economic and legal history.

The catalogue can be searched by keyword, with options to refine searches by date, collection or government department, subject, etc. Help with searching is available and there are extensive research guides providing background information on record series.

The full text of documents cannot be searched. The level of descriptive detail provided for catalogue records varies considerably across collections. Where documents have been digitised they are available to registered users to download as PDF files. (There may be a charge for this service.) There is also an option to order copies of documents that have not been digitised.

Please note that only records which fall within the date range 1000-1500 have been included in Manuscripts Online.

Technical Methods

The Discovery System is an integration platform built using Service Oriented Architecture principles. The software uses Microsoft .NET platform technologies and written in C#. The data store is a high-performance, document-based, open source MongoDB database. Search and taxonomy (subjects) functionality are powered by Autonomy indexes.

About the project

The Discovery catalogue, replacing the Catalogue which had been in use since 1998, was launched in beta in March 2011 and underwent an extensive user testing process.

More about the design process


Contact page

The National Archives
Coming Soon

Source Types

  • Official Documents


  • Summaries or Calendars


  • government
  • public records


  • English
  • Latin
  • French


  • Free

Time Period



The National Archives, London

Cite this page:

"The National Archives" Manuscripts Online (, version 1.0, 25 July 2024),