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Exploring British advertising and marketing history through records of The National Archives of the UK

Katherine Margaret Howells (Department of Collections Expertise and Engagement, The National Archives, Richmond, UK)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 17 February 2022

Issue publication date: 6 May 2022




This paper aims to showcase the range of historical records held at The National Archives of the UK which are potentially highly useful to researchers in marketing and advertising history, but have so far been under-appreciated in these fields.


By taking key record collections, primarily intellectual property records and records of government publicity, and examining them from the perspective of different fields of study, the potential of these collections is brought to light. This paper also draws out key examples of past research with these collections to show both the effectiveness of these records as sources for research and at the same time the limited way they have so far been approached by academics.


This review of the records demonstrates how researchers working in advertising and marketing history fields might supplement their research or open up new research avenues with the benefit of new sources. It shows how assumptions about government archives need to be reconsidered to avoid missing research opportunities.

Practical implications

Sharing knowledge and increasing connections between government archives and academics in these fields may encourage archives to improve their own approaches to archival practice and academic engagement, to make records more accessible to these new research audiences. This would of course be beneficial both to researchers and government archives.


This paper provides a detailed examination of government records in the specific context of the field of marketing history. This unique focus makes a valuable contribution to the literature exploring historical sources for this field.



This article exploring British advertising and marketing history through records of TNA of the UK was written by Dr Katherine Howells of The National Archives. It is licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.


Howells, K.M. (2022), "Exploring British advertising and marketing history through records of The National Archives of the UK", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 14 No. 2, pp. 196-212.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Crown copyright.

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