The Huntington Library is one of the most significant repositories in the world for British history. Areas of strength are politics, law, diplomacy, aristocratic and gentry family life, religion, gender and sexuality, the economy, the military and navy, colonial expansion and administration, and slavery and the slave trade. Intellectual and artistic culture, architecture, and landscape gardening are also documented in depth. While manuscript materials span the 11th through the 19th centuries, the bulk dates between 1530 and 1890.
Mr. Huntington acquired the core of the British history holdings during his lifetime, purchasing four primary collections:
- Battle Abbey is composed of about 3,000 items from the 11th century through 1780. It contains the manorial and legal records for the abbey established by William the Conqueror on the site of the Battle of Hastings.
- The Ellesmere Collection, or Egerton Family Papers, comprises some 13,000 manuscripts and spans the fifteenth through the early 19th century, with strengths in Elizabethan and early 17th-century court life, politics, family history, and literature. This acquisition accompanied the purchase of the centuries-old Bridgewater family library.
- The Hastings Collection contains 50,000 items and is the family archive for the earls of Huntingdon, dating from 1100 to the 1890s.
- The Stowe Papers are the largest British archival collection. They are named for the landed estate that was the historical seat of the dukes of Buckingham and Chandos and the site of the renowned English landscape garden. The family and estate papers total approximately 355,000 items and cover more than one thousand years.
There are an additional hundred or so smaller manuscript collections—chiefly correspondence—comprising many tens of thousands of letters from the 16th to 20th centuries. Complementing The Huntington's vast manuscript resources are further rich holdings of early English printed books, maps, British satirical prints from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and important early photographs and photographically illustrated books.