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Introduction to Archives

Students viewing an exhibition of Rupert Brooke papers.
Students viewing an exhibition of Rupert Brooke papers.

Using primary sources can be highly rewarding and offers exciting opportunities for research but it requires a different set of skills to using secondary sources. This beginner’s guide to archives is intended for A-level students, as well as bright and motivated GCSE students. It can be used in the classroom or at home. Although it has been designed primarily for students of History and English, no prior knowledge is assumed.

The aims of this website are:

  • to teach young people the fundamentals of archival research, and
  • to enable them to carry out such research independently.



Letter from Rupert Brooke to St John Lucas, July 1905. Archive Centre, King’s College, Cambridge. RCB/L/2, letter 10 (first page)
Our introduction to what archives are, the key principles of archival research and how to access primary sources.
Rupert Brooke papers used as a case study for archives intro
How these ideas apply to the papers of Rupert Brooke, through activities focusing on different aspects of his life and his most famous poems.
This section consolidates what students have learned in the previous sections and encourages them to think about how to plan research projects.
A glossary and other useful resources intended to provide users of this website with further clarification or context.

Using this Resource

Although sections can be carried out individually, if students progress through the sections in order they will gain a deeper understanding of the importance of context when using archives.

There are activities and points for discussion throughout. If you are using this site as an individual, rather than in a group, you may still like to reflect on the points offered for discussion.

If you have any questions or comments on this website please feel free to email archivist@kings.cam.ac.uk.

Rupert Brooke is one of the most fascinating figures of the Edwardian period, a man who in his afterlife has been almost continuously mythologised and de-mythologised. This website is the ideal introduction to his work, life and times, and will be invaluable to students and scholars as well as general readers.

- Andrew Motion (Rupert Brooke Trustee and former Poet Laureate)




A-level students using facsimiles of archival documents during an interpretation activity, as part of a residential, and discussing them with Dr Alisa Miller (guest speaker at the event).

Teachers' Notes

Aims of this Resource This resource teaches students the value of using primary sources, the...


We would like to thank Lorna Beckett, chairman of the Rupert Brooke Society; the late...

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