The Chamber Books, held at the National Archives and at the British Library, both London, comprise three books of receipts covering 1487-1495 and 1502-1505, nine books of the king’s expenses (though two are almost wholly duplicates, and one a partial duplicate), covering 1495-1521 and one book of the queen’s expenses (1502-1503). A now lost book for Henry VII is preserved only as antiquarian extracts. While the series continues for Henry VIII, the death of the long-lived treasurer of the Chamber, John Heron, in 1521 and changes in the form and function of the chamber means that documents after 1521 have not been included.
The Chamber Books have long been used by historians. However the fact that they have not been transcribed, published, or made digitally available, that collectively they are very bulky (over 4,000 pages), and are arranged primarily in a daily account of expenditure rather than thematically, has meant that they have never been used systematically.
The project has transcribed the contents of the books, electronically tagging items to allow specific and subject searching, and made it available via this website to search and browse, both in the original language (mainly middle English but with some Latin and French) and in a modernised English version. The transcribed text is fully searchable, but work is ongoing on the modernised text and the website. There is a more detailed description of the editorial process available on this website here.
Opening up this resource as a freely accessible online edition allows a major new reinterpretation of early Tudor kingship and society by the project team, a wider study of the material culture of the early Tudor court, and more generally allow academics and the public alike to investigate for themselves both the daily lives and the statecraft of Henry VII and Henry VIII (up to 1521).
The project, funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grant, began in September 2016, and is based at the University of Winchester, in conjunction with the Digital Humanities Institute at the University of Sheffield, and with Dr. Sean Cunningham at the National Archives. The project would like to acknowledge the generous assistance of the Cabot project based at the University of Bristol, and the British Library.
Kingship and Political Society in England, 1485-1529: the projection and reception of royal authority under Henry VII and Henry VIII by Sean Cunningham and James Ross will be published by Oxford University Press in 2023.
The project conference, ‘Early Tudor Court Culture. A Conference celebrating the launch of the digital edition of the Chamber Books of Henry VII and Henry VIII (1485-1521)’ took place at the University of Winchester on Wednesday 29 and Thursday 30 August 2018. For the programme: Early Tudor Court Culture programme.
Publications from this conference include: J. Ross, ‘Alienated Outside or Integrated Courtier? Edward Stafford, third duke of Buckingham, 1498-1521 and the Royal Court’, History, 108 (2023), 20-40.
For a 2017 article on how Henry VII spent his money by James Ross on the History Extra website, please click here
Dr. James Ross (University of Winchester) – Director of the project
James is a senior lecturer in late medieval history at the University of Winchester. His research interests focus on the late medieval and early Tudor monarchy, aristocracy and on royal government and its records. He has published widely on political society in late medieval England, and is the author of John de Vere, Thirteenth Earl of Oxford. ‘The Foremost Man of the Kingdom (2011), and Henry VI in the Penguin English Monarchs series (2016).
Margaret Condon (University of Winchester) – Project researcher
Margaret Condon is the author of a number of published and peer-reviewed articles on the reign of Henry VII and on English administrative history, including two chapters in Tim Tatton-Brown and Richard Mortimer, eds., Westminster Abbey: The Lady Chapel of Henry VII (Woodbridge, 2003). An itinerary of the king is in course of preparation. Since 2009 she has worked with Dr Evan Jones (University of Bristol) on the ‘Cabot Project’ http://www.bristol.ac.uk/history/research/cabot/. Jones and Condon have recently produced a book on the Discovery Voyages c. 1480-1508, aimed at the general reader: Cabot and Bristol’s Age of Discovery (Bristol, 2016) and are currently working on a major academic monograph as well as other written outputs from their research.
Dr. Samantha Harper (University of Winchester) – Project researcher
Samantha completed her PhD, entitled ‘Henry VII and the City of London’, in 2015 at the Institute of Historical Research. Since then she has taught at Bristol and Winchester universitites and has extended her work on London to encompass the reigns of the Yorkist kings and Henry VIII. Samantha has published articles in peer-reviewed journals regarding the final years of Henry VII, the privileged position goldsmiths enjoyed at his court, and the evolution of the relationship between the capital and the monarch during his reign.
Dr. Lisa Liddy (University of Winchester) – Project researcher
Lisa has 20 years’ experience working on major editorial projects, including The Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, Medieval Petitions and for the English Place-Name Survey, and as a freelance palaeographer. In 2015 she completed a PhD at the university of York on material culture in 15th- and 16th-century York homes. Lisa has published articles on neighbourhood in medieval York and on the use of emotion in York wills, and has co-edited the cartulary of Beauchief abbey.
Dr. Sean Cunningham (The National Archives) – Consultant
Sean completed his PhD in 1996 on ‘Henry VII, Rebellion and the Financial Control of the Aristocracy‘. He has published historical biographies of Henry VII (2007) and Prince Arthur (2016), as well as numerous articles on the nobles, politics and government of late medieval and early Tudor England. He is currently summarising Henry VII’s reign for the Penguin English Monarchs series. He has worked at The National Archives for over twenty years and is currently head of the medieval records specialist team.
Katherine Rogers (The Digital Humanities Institute | Sheffield) – Developer
Kathy is a Digital Humanities Developer at DHI Sheffield with considerable experience in the technical design and delivery of large technology research projects in the arts and humanities, such as Connected Histories, Manuscripts Online, Bess of Hardwick’s Letters and Richard Brome Online
Michael Pidd (The Digital Humanities Institute | Sheffield)
Michael is the Director of DHI Sheffield and has 25 years experience in the conception, development and delivery of large technology research projects in the arts and humanities. See http://www.dhi.ac.uk
Prof. Matthew Davies (Birkbeck, University of London)
Prof. Maria Hayward (University of Southampton)
Dr. Elena (Ellie) Woodacre (University of Winchester)