I often need somewhat specific historical data for research purposes (I'm a doctoral student), and sometimes I'm not able to find such data through a Google/library/ICPSR/etc. search, hence this question. Are questions about data sources for historical data on topic here?

I'm familiar with the Open Data Stack Exchange, but I'm not sure such questions are within the scope of that site, since the data I'm looking for are not necessarily "open". For example, if such data are only available in scanned documents that have not yet been converted to a machine-readable format, the data may not qualify as "open" but would still be of interest to me.

My guess is that such questions are not accepted here, since they may stray too close to questions seeking references and there may be some disagreement as to whether they're open-ended. I would argue that such questions are not open-ended, since definitive data sources may exist, but that's why I'm asking for feedback.

In this case, I'm interested in counts or lists of recipients government welfare or subsidized poor house work under the 1834 English Poor Laws and the 1906 Liberal welfare reforms for fine-grained geographic areas like counties or parishes. Most of the work I do requires dat like this; "XYZ for as small a geographic area as possible" because eventually it will be fed into a regression.

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    I suspect that much of the information you are looking for in this case is held by County Record Offices across England, and has not even been scanned, let alone converted to a machine-readable format! Jan 14, 2019 at 16:55
  • @sempaiscuba I'll look into those sources more. Thank you.
    – Michael A
    Jan 16, 2019 at 19:39
  • I had already asked a question in this category on the Open Data SE (this question), so I flagged it for a move to history.SE in the hope that it can get a useful answer.
    – Michael A
    Jan 26, 2019 at 17:31

1 Answer 1


In my opinion, these questions would fit within the "authoritative or canonical reference requests" category and be acceptable.

I don't think such a question is likely to drive the kind of fraction discussion that ordinary reference requests elicit. I'd be inclined to support such a request.

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    I'm inclined to agree. Jan 14, 2019 at 16:52
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    Thank you for the feedback. I'll try not to spam the community with too many of these questions (because goodness knows I could!).
    – Michael A
    Jan 16, 2019 at 19:39

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