Contents of this article
The Cause Papers is a searchable catalogue or listing of more than 14,000 cause papers relating to disputes over matrimony, defamation, tithes, probate, breach of faith by the clergy, and church rights heard between 1300 and 1858 in the Church Courts of the diocese of York. The original records, held in the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York, are the most extensive of their type in the United Kingdom. They offer an extremely valuable resource for family and local historians and scholars interested in social, ecclesiastical, economic and legal history.
Data-entry utilised a customised XML schema. The schema – designed explicitly for the project – provided a controlled vocabulary to express each cause from the archive. This included detailed provision for individuals represented in the cause papers and for handling variant names. The schema also provided for an exceptionally high level of detail on locations associated with a particular cause or person.
The XML document was visualised using an XML editing tool called XMLmind. Each validated document (or form) was ingested into a relational database which formed the repository which is utilised by the publicly accessible website built in the final phase of the project.
Strengths and weaknesses
The Cause Papers is a catalogue; it lists papers for over 13,000 individual cases. A wealth of supporting information is also included. The importance of the material for social, economic, ecclesiastical and legal history has long been recognised, and the papers also contain extremely rich personal and place name data. At present the project only offers access to document images for the main series 1500–1799, and these texts are not searchable. For other periods copies of particular documents may be ordered directly from the relevant catalogue description and registered users also have the option to add abstracts for each case.
A particular strength of the project is the care taken to ensure that all spelling variants for surnames and place names are searchable under standard forms, while the database also provides the original spellings.
About the project
The Cause Papers was a collaborative project between the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York and the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Sheffield. Funding was provided by the Andrew W Mellon Foundation. The Principal Investigator was Dr Philippa Hoskin and the Technical Officers were Katherine Rogers and Ed Mackenzie. The Cause papers was published by HRI Online Publications. For further information, see the project's About this project page.