Archives

Archives

Our archives tell the stories of physicians and their patients from the 13th century to the present day. 


The core of our archive content paints the Royal College of Physicians, from foundation to fruition. Founded in 1518 by six doctors, the RCP now has over thirty six thousand members worldwide. Our prominent role in the development of medical practice has always been driven by the skills and passions of the RCP membership. For this reason, the archives also include papers about members’ lives and careers. These collections provide a glimpse into the working and home lives of medical practitioners, and the people they treated. 

The rich resources that make up our archive collection include:

  • diaries, letters, and casebooks of medical practitioners and students describing training and treatment
  • reports and other records on public health, including papers of the RCP committees which produced guidance and recommendations for improvement
  • papers of influential doctors such as William Harvey and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson
  • records of places physicians have worked, such as hospitals, dispensaries, workhouses, prisons, and military settings
  • documents relating to medical history, including campaigns to license women doctors, and the creation of the National Health Service
  • malpractice cases, chemist shop inspection registers, and global health surveys
  • drawings of anatomy and disease
  • building plans for our Regent’s Park Grade 1 listed headquarters.

We regularly publish blog posts about items from the RCP collections, spreading the stories of these fascinating items. You can also search our archive catalogue and make an appointment to find documents and write your own stories about the history of medicine. 

Accessing online collections

Almost 10,000 archive items are available via an online subscription product on the history of science by Wiley Ltd. They are also accessible at the RCP London headquarters via browser or through the PCs in the library reading room. See the archives catalogue for details of digitised content.

Digitised highlights

Donations

Archive collection on papers, letters and notesWe welcome all offers of donation of material to our archives. Please be aware, however, that due to collecting criteria and limited space, we are not able to accept all offers.

We collect records that help tell the story of the developing role of physicians over time, and that reveal the experiences of physicians and their patients. If you have records that you think would add to this story, please get in touch, whether you’re a physician, or a patient of a physician, or a family member of a physician or patient. Records might include anything from casebooks and letters, to photos and emails.

Please note that we look to collect original records, rather than copies. Original records might be paper, such as a diary, or they might be digital, such as a text message.

If you have any questions about donating to the RCP archives, contact us at history@rcplondon.ac.uk. For more information about what we do and don't collect, see our archive acquisition and disposal policy.

We also welcome donations to our library collections and museum collections.

 

Volunteers

Our archives, library and museum teams benefit greatly from the work of volunteers and always welcome enquiries from the public. We particularly welcome enquiries from those considering a career or postgraduate qualification in archives and records management (no experience necessary).

For more information on volunteer opportunities visit our volunteering page.

Privacy

The archive catalogues and other collection management documents may contain information about living persons, in relation to collection items. The RCP also keeps records on research visitors, to meet access and security requirements. Please view our permanent collections processing statement below for further details.