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Subject Guide: Sociology: Archives and Special Collections

A guide to getting the most out of the Library and Collections resources for Sociology

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Contact Archives and Special Collections

Palace Green Library

Palace Green
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)191 334 2972



Archives and Special Collections for Sociology

Archives and Special Collections have a range of resources which can help the student of Sociology explore the historic antecedents and development of the academic subject within the University of Durham. 


Resources for some specific areas are highlighted below, but resources for many more specific topics can be discovered by searching for the appropriate topic (such as Sociology or Crimonology or social welfare etc) in Discover and by restricting the search to ‘Durham Archives’ or by searching the printed catalogue by selecting the topic as a subject or keyword and restricting the search to ‘Special Collections’ or ‘Ushaw College’.  


Sociology has its antecedents in the university in Durham in the Department of Social Theory and Institutions, established in 1964 with J.A. Rex as the first professor. This then morphed into Sociology and Social Administration in 1970, by which stage subjects included Sociological Theory, Sociology of Modern Britain, Comparative and Historical Sociology, Social Research Methods, Sociology of Deviance, Industrial Sociology, Political Sociology, Sociology of Religion, Contemporary Sociological Theory, Social Administration, Sociology of Developing Societies. The Department became Sociology and Social Policy in 1985, the School of Applied Social Sciences in 2004/05, and the present Department of Sociology in 2019. 

The development of the subject and department of Sociology in the university is reflected in the university’s own archive, in central, faculty and departmental files, in the records of the meetings of its various committees from Senate and Council down, in the exam papers, pass lists and mark sheets for the subject, and the university’s publications of such as the Gazette, Calendar, Journal, and Vice-Chancellor’s Reports, and newsletters and the like. Aspects of the subject have also featured in the syllabus at the Catholic seminary and associated junior school of Ushaw College (1808-2010) whose archive is still accessible at the former college. 

There are various books and reports in the Local Collection on open access in Palace Green Library addressing some of the sociological aspects of life in the North East in recent times. In a more ecclesiastical context, it is especially the printed collection of the Newcastle Quakers, and also their Sunderland counterparts, along with the collection of the Durham Salvation Army that have most relevant material. The Josephine Butler (1828-1906) Book Collection reflects the work of an ardent campaigner for the end of coverture in British law, the abolition of child prostitution, and an end to human trafficking of young women and children into European prostitution. The subject of Sociology is also addressed for a very different part of the world in a number of the printed works that are part of the Sudan Archive.  

The collections contain records of a variety of courts, some criminal, some more administrative, answerable to the cathedral (especially in Durham in the Middle Ages) or the bishop of Durham (both his courts as head of the diocese hearing cases more to do with morals and his courts as head of the palatinate hearing more criminal cases). Further afield, there is also material relating to 20th century criminal law administration in Egypt in Sir Reginald Wingate’s papers and in the Sudans in the Sudan Archive. More recently, in the 1990s and 2000s, the university was involved in the Harperley Hall National Police Training Centre, validating courses on Crime Scene Examination and Fingerprint Examination, with records of this in the university archive

A range of Catholic collections are available for research into socio-religious work. Very relevant is the collection of the Pastoral Research Centre, which has a sub-title of Centre for Applied Socio-Religious Research, a body collecting statistics on the social life of the Catholic Church in the 1960s and 1970s. Most pertinent might be the archive of the Catholic Social Workers Guild (extant 1945-2006), comprising activities in localities around the country, and at the centre. Perhaps less immediately obvious but none the less significant are the collections – often both books and archives – of various Catholic female religious orders, caring for themselves as communities with all the tensions that institutional life can at times engender, but also performing an often invaluable role of support and social work, often for children, within the wider community that they were part of. These collections include those of the Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre (originally established in 1642 in Liege, but after 1794 settling in Essex), the Poor Clares of Darlington (1857-2007) and Woodchester (1850-2011), the Sisters of the Poor Child Jesus (based at Southam, Warwickshire since 1876), the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Evron (based at Stockport 1904-2019) and the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception (based in Braintree, Essex, since the later 19th century). The archives of further Catholic organisations also relate to aspects of the subject, such as the Catholic Women’s League, founded in 1906, which has the social welfare interests of Catholic women very much at its heart.  

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