An intimate look at the inner workings of Elizabethan and Jacobean England — and all its drama — goes worldwide this month when ProQuest launches The Cecil Papers for the web. The 30,000 startlingly clear digital images virtually recreate documents gathered by William Cecil, Lord Burghley and his son Robert Cecil, First Earl of Salisbury, two of Elizabeth I’s closest advisers. Thanks to an agreement between the Library and Archives of Hatfield House, the 400 year-old home of Britain’s Marquess of Salisbury, and information technology firm ProQuest, an expert in digitization of rare documents, web users can view state papers, political memoranda, legal documents, and treaties as well as hand-drawn maps, tables and letters that will transport them into the day-to-day of events such as the Spanish Armada, the Gunpowder Plot and the imprisonment and execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Until now, The Cecil Papers were available for viewing only to visitors of Hatfield House, located just outside London, where they have been housed since the 16th century, or through two ageing microfilm versions. Digitization dramatically expands access for scholars, accelerating research opportunities. While ProQuest will provide the technological expertise, subscribing libraries will provide the access point, incorporating The Cecil Papers into their digital collections and making them available through their Internet gateways. The National University of Ireland is among the very first libraries to provide access.
"Our historians and archivists are very excited. We are all in agreement that our founding Librarian, James Hardiman, would have been delighted to acquire such a prestigious collection," said Neil O'Brien, Collection Management Librarian, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland.
Among the tens of thousands of items in The Cecil Papers are documents detailing negotiations, correspondence, and questions of marriage relating to Elizabeth, as well as the succession to the throne. Mary, Queen of Scots' fate unfolds through a look at the famous "casket letters," as her son — James VI of Scotland and I of England — begins his journey to power. Personal lives can be witnessed through the wealth of letters — loving and otherwise — sonnets, and pleas. And the expansion of the Crown is documented through correspondence that details expeditions, wars and conquests.
Lord Salisbury says of the launch of The Cecil Papers, "One of the glories of Hatfield House is the collection of manuscripts dating from the 16th to the 20th century. These papers have long been available to scholars, although necessarily in a restricted manner. Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, we are now able to provide access on a wider basis. The first tranche of papers, from the 16th century, has now been digitized as the initial phase of a longer term project. I am delighted that, in conjunction with our partners, ProQuest, we at Hatfield have been able to embark on what we see as an exciting contribution to broadening access to a valuable historic resource."
To learn more about The Cecil Papers and ProQuest's mission to support serious research around the world visit www.proquest.com.
About Hatfield House
Hatfield House is the ancestral home of the Marquess of Salisbury. It was built between 1607 and 1612 by Robert Cecil, First Earl of Salisbury, Secretary of State and Lord High Treasurer of England. Robert inherited his outstanding political talents from his father, Lord Burghley, who was Queen Elizabeth I's principal adviser. Later generations of Cecils have been noted for the distinguished part they have played in public life: many have served as cabinet ministers and the Third Marquess of Salisbury was Prime Minister for fourteen years at the end of Queen Victoria's reign, when the British Empire was at the height of its power and influence.
Hatfield House is an outstanding example of Jacobean architecture. Its many original features include finely carved woodwork, marble fireplaces and several decorated plaster ceilings; its celebrated art collection contains two iconic portraits of Queen Elizabeth I. The Queen spent part of her childhood in the Old Palace which stands nearby. Hatfield House is open to visitors from Easter until September.
Gascoyne Cecil Estates is the family holding company for a diverse range of enterprises, including farming, forestry and property management.
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More than a content provider or aggregator, ProQuest is an information partner, creating indispensable research solutions that connect people and information. Through innovative, user-centered discovery technology, ProQuest offers billions of pages of global content that includes historical newspapers, dissertations, and uniquely relevant resources for researchers of any level and sophistication—including content not likely to be digitized by others.
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