Re-archiving the Individual: British Army Officers, 1790-1820

"The Departure from Brighton" Francis Wheatley 1796


How do you bring 40,000 people back to life?

‘Re-Archiving the Individual’ explores how we can reconstruct historical lives from archival records on a mass scale through the development of digital technologies that bring together sources in archives about individuals.

Our research team is creating a ‘life archive’ as a tool to understand people in the past.

The project will create a publicly accessible life archive of officers in the British Army from the late 18th and early 19th century; an estimated 40,000 people who served in conflicts across the globe. We’ll explore patterns to understand what was typical about officers’ careers.

We’ll explore questions like: how long were they in the Army? How quickly – or slowly – were they promoted? Who served where and when? Who was absent from their units (either with permission or without it) and why?

This record-linking process allows the exploration of individuals at a scale that is impossible through traditional historical techniques.

As well as developing the technology we’ll explore the importance of this technology to archives looking at how we can ‘re-archive’ records in a way that offers innovative opportunities for researchers, new ways for archives to engage with the collections they hold and is more accessible to the public.

Partners and collaboration

Delivering this project involves working closely with some key partners to bridge between archives, digital humanities, and academics. The project works closely with:

We also welcome contact from archives and museums who would like to know more about the project or may hold material that relates to our work.

Outputs and publications 


Upcoming opportunity to engage with this project:

10th July 2024: ‘Data Workshop: Person-Matching Technology and Archival Records’, at the University of Leeds. Read more about the workshop on the event page.

Past events

Resources and publications

Our planned project outputs include:

  • A public database on British Army officers, 1790-1820
  • A toolkit for archives about life archive technology

The research in this project will also underpin a book-length study of British Army officers in the era.

In the News

Further Links