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



Partners and collaborators

Sheffield Digital Humanities Institute and The National Archives


This project will explore how we can reconstruct historical lives from archival records on a mass scale through the development of digital technologies to bring together sources in archives about individuals. It will create and explore a ‘life archive’ as a tool to understand people in the past. Using a case study of officers in the British Army in the late 18th and early 19th century the project will facilitate a wider exploration of individuals in archives by engaging the archive sector with the process of re-arranging archival collections through digital technologies whilst preserving their integrity in accordance with archival standards.

This record-linking process will allow the exploration of individuals as historical actors and their social networks at a scale that is impossible through traditional historical techniques. The project will develop both the technology and the practice to find individuals en masse within archive collections – to ‘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 user-friendly. 

The project’s life archive of the British Army officers will enable the analysis of the 40,000 officers who served between 1790 and 1830. Through this, we will be able to recover the historical experience of the silent majority of Army officers. It will provide an adaptable and authoritative research and reference tool for scholars and students working on the British Army, as well as family historians looking for information about their ancestors who served as officers. Through the project, we’ll explore what was typical about officers’ careers, who were absent (and why), and the service they had at key moments.

Publications and outputs

Two journal articles
A book