One of the most remarkable features of the British historical scene since World War II has been the rapid professionalization of local history. The National Register of Archives was set up in 1954 “to record the location, content and availability of all collections of documents, both large and small, in England and Wales (other than those of the central government).” From 1949 something akin to a diary of the burgeoning interest in this area was provided by the journal Archives. Neither the work of the National Register nor the informed discussion of Archives would have been possible, however, without the labours of permanent professional archivists who were to be found in most county and other major local record offices by the 1950s. It is not the purpose of this article, however, to record archival activities as such or to follow the subdividing of these activities throughout the 1950s indicated by the Bulletin of the National Register of Archives, the Lists of Accessions, and the many catalogues issuing from local archives.
For the archivist, interest in local records seemed to follow naturally enough upon his scientific training in national collections. But such was not the case for the academic historian for whom “nationalization” of history had become identified with the development of scientific history itself. While the president of the Historical Association could admit in his Jubilee Address of 1956 that “One of the most important features of the first half of the twentieth century is the realization in one field after another that history is much more than the mere story of governments,” this realization has been very gradual.