Institutional archives

From the founding charter of 1518 to 20th-century reports on the effects of smoking, the institutional archives contain a wealth of material on the Royal College of Physicians' role in relation to contemporary medical advances. The RCP was founded so that physicians could be formally licensed to practice and those who were not qualified could be exposed and punished. The legal documents archives contain invaluable material defining the RCP’s changing role in setting standards in medical practice.

The institutional archives (pdf)

The legal documents (pdf)

Manuscripts and personal papers

RCP members have always collected manuscripts and papers on a wide range of medical and non-medical topics. As a result, the archives contain an eclectic collection of 14th- to 19th-century manuscripts including works on astrology, alchemy, religion, travel, medical theory and medical practice. Also, personal papers of past fellows from the 16th century to the 20th century provide glimpses into the personal lives and social concerns of many distinguished physicians.

The manuscript collection (pdf)

The personal papers of past fellows and other medical personalities (pdf)

Research guides

We are producing a range of guides to support researchers, which will be published below as they become available.

If you or someone you know is researching family history and has a medical ancestor, use our research guide to help you find out more.

Family history research guide (pdf)

Below is our guide to original resources on the history of medicine, ideal for thesis research.

Unlocking the medicine chest (pdf)

Below is our guide to original resources on domestic medicine in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Domestic medicine research guide (pdf)


The archives are available by appointment. See access for researchers for full details and how to make an appointment.

Reader Registration instructions (pdf)

Terms of access (pdf)

Photography policy (pdf)

External finding aids


Other historical resources at the RCP

Read our weekly historical collections blog

Lives of the fellows ('Munks Roll')

The RCP has an almost complete collection of obituaries of past fellows since 1518, known as Lives of the fellows. It provides a unique resource for those interested in medical, social and family history.

Find out more

Search the Lives of the fellows database


Our rare book and special collections hold material on RCP activities and the lives of physicians from the 16th century to the present day.  

Rare books and special collections  

Museum and garden

Our museum collections of portraits, silver and medical artefacts are displayed throughout our celebrated Grade I listed headquarters in Regent’s Park

Our garden contains over 1,300 plants, each used in some way as medicine around the world over the past 3,000 years.

Visit the RCP museum and garden.


Contact the Archives

Tel: 020 3075 1505