– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.

Q&A – medieval student records

Q: regarding an onomastic research project:

 – Are all your oldest documents digitized?

– In what archive or department of the archives can I find the names of students from the XIII century? 

– Where should I send a request for the names of students and/or teachers during the XX century? Do I understand correctly that the information about students after that date is not presented in the Archives? Until what year does Data Protection apply?


– Most of our documents are not digitised; see post on digitisation. This is true for all colleges; Balliol has more digital images online than most.

I should clarify that the University and Colleges each have their own archives.  

– The best single source of information about students from the medieval period is Emden, AB. A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to AD1500, 1957-9, and A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford AD1501 to 1540, 1974. There were only three colleges in the 13th century, University, Merton and Balliol; a list of colleges with their foundation dates is here. There were also some undergraduate halls, which did not have the same status as college, and other students were not members of any collegiate organisation at all. Surviving records are far from intact; Balliol has no records of its students or Fellows before the 16th century.

– Names of students, lecturers and Fellows in the 20th century will normally be published each year in the college’s alumni publication; for many colleges this is called the Annual Record but some have other titles. As I understand it, anything in such a publication is not considered confidential personal data under the Data Protection Act; however, the way in which such data is used may be affected by the Act. You will need to clarify the ramifications of the Act on your particular project; advice is available from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

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