King’s and The Royal Archives Georgian Papers Programme publishes first 33,000 documents

Georgian Papers

King’s and The Royal Archives have launched a major new phase in the Georgian Papers Programme. January saw the launch of an online portal, giving academics and the public access to personal documents relating to King George III for the first time. Through the catalogue, historic manuscripts relating to the Georgian monarchy will become more widely available to the public and academics.

King's is the lead academic partner for the Georgian Papers Programme which is an international collaboration with early American history specialists, the Omohundro Institute and College of William and Mary. The programme has already attracted support for its research from the Sons of the American Revolution and the Mount Vernon Ladies Association. Sponsorship for metadata preparation has also been secured through the Foyle Foundation and Sackler Trust.

The first batch of 33,000 items to be digitised and published includes essays written by the maligned King George III, whose reign is best known for his loss of the American Colonies and his apparent madness.

By the end of this ambitious project, the digital archive will contain 350,000 papers. The Georgian Papers Programme website will update details of the catalogue as more papers are digitised and made available. 85 per cent of the collection have not previously been examined by scholars. 

Genius of the Mad King

The work of King’s scholars involved in the Georgian Papers Programme features heavily in the recent BBC 2 documentary The Genius of the Mad King.

The programme offers important insight into King George, suggesting that there was more to him than his madness, and he was also a meticulous researcher with incurable curiosity. Andrew Lambert, Laughton Professor of Naval History at King’s, told the documentary: ‘He was processing knowledge on a proto-industrial scale as a part of his role. He was the best informed Chief Executive this country has ever had.’

Research and fellowship

King’s fellows and lecturers offer further academic interpretation on the archive on the Georgian Papers Programme Blog, posting on The German Empire, Agriculture and George III’s draft abdication speech.

Dr Angel Luke O’Donnell, Teaching Fellow in North American History at King’s, offers some context and caution into the reading of King George III’s essay America is Lost on the American Revolution.

‘The words of the essay substantively replicate a published essay by Arthur Young, a leading British agricultural theorist who shared George’s passion for improving farming techniques. Therefore, before analysing the language of the piece, we must first determine why Young’s words appear in the handwriting of the King.’

With vast numbers of papers still to be read and digitised, we look forward with excitement to the future of this unprecedented project.

For more information and updates on the Georgian Papers Progamme, visit the website.

This programme is made possible thanks to the generous support of the following donors: 

  • John S Cohen Foundation
  • Foyle Foundation
  • Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation
  • Leche Trust
  • National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution
  • Santander Universities UK