In the year 1200, the English Government initiated regular series of record-archives; in 1640, the fall of Charles I's personal government led to the abolition of several central offices and their archives. These events, which both profoundly altered the state of the evidence for the historian, therefore set the limits of this book. For though those 450 years must be studied from a great variety of sources, to the historian they constitute above all the period for which he depends overwhelmingly on official records of all kinds. The core of this book, therefore, is an analysis and description of such materials - their origin, present state and usefulness. However, other materials are not ignored, from the chronicles which provide the main outline of the history that can be known, through the records of the law, private letters (almost non-existent before 1450, suddenly plentiful after 1550) and estate documents, to less familiar historical sources like books, buildings and landscape, and the contribution of the archaeologist.