I suppose there is something of the hunter-gatherer in all of us. Some people like to hunt foxes, with others it's truffles. With me, it's digital archives. The pleasure that the stag hunter probably gets when he sights a mature hart in the cross-hairs, I get when I find a new digital archive. And the adrenaline coursed through my clerkish veins this morning when I discovered British History Online. To quote the website : "British History Online is the digital library containing some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles. Created by the Institute of Historical Research and the History of Parliament Trust, we aim to support academic and personal users around the world in their learning, teaching and research". If that sounds boring take a look at some of the titles which have been added recently : things like the complete series of the Calendar of Treasury Books and Papers and the complete series of the Calendar of Spanish State Papers. But pick a collection at random, pick a volume at random and pick a date at random and dip in : absolutely fascinating.
My dip took me into the digital collection of the State Papers of Venice for the period 1202 to 1675. The 38 volumes cover relations between the Venetian State and England and they are, I am glad to say, available in English translation. In the main they cover official reports and letters from Venetian diplomats and these provide a wonderful sidelight on English and European history. Here are a couple of illustrations from the records of 1649. They are taken from the texts of diplomatic reports which have been sent to the Venetian Doge and Senate: