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 will transcribe the contents of the books, electronically tag items to allow specific and subject searching, and make 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. It is anticipated that the data will be released in tranches from the summer of 2017, but it will not be complete until spring 2018.
Opening up this resource as a freely accessible online edition will allow 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).
There will be an end of project conference at the University of Winchester in September 2018 (date tbc) on the theme of Early Tudor Court culture, whose proceedings will be published in due course. It is also envisaged that a book, provisionally entitled Kingship and Political Society, 1485-1529, incorporating research from the project will be published in 2019.
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.