The collection, comprising English MSS 441-467, 472-477 and 873, mainly consists of the transcriptions made by William Arthur Shaw as part of his research, especially for his works A History of the English Church during the Civil Wars and under the Commonwealth and The Knights of England. The strengths of the collection are in the areas of seventeenth-century Presbyterianism, persecution of Anglican ministers during the period 1649-1660, proceedings of Parliament during the English Civil War, and the history of the Order of the Bath and other orders of merit, particularly for the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
W.A. Shaw transcribed various minutes of the Presbyterian movement in England, including Classis meetings from London (Eng MS 441), Manchester (Eng MS 443), Cornwall (Eng MS 444), Cambridge (Eng MS 444), Essex (Eng MS 453), and Nottingham (Eng MS 445), as well as minutes from the London Provincial Assembly (Eng MS 442) and the Westminster Assembly of 1643 (Eng MS 873).
With his wife Clara he also extracted from various sources, including manuscripts then in the British Museum (now mainly in the British Library), the Public Record Office (now The National Archives), the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and Dr Williams's Library in London, information on the persecution that Anglican ministers faced during the Puritan ascendancy of the Commonwealth and Protectorate periods (1649-1660), with special emphasis on Lancashire and Cheshire (Eng MSS 446, 447 and 449) but including more general coverage as well (Eng MSS 448 and 873).
Shaw was also interested in the proceedings of Parliament during the early stages of the English Civil War and he transcribed extracts from the diaries of two noted Parliamentarians, John Moore (Eng MS 451) and Lawrence Whitaker (Eng MS 452).
The final part of the collection also represents Shaw's research into English knighthood. This part of the collection focuses on lists of English knights and the history and membership of the Order of the Bath (Eng MSS 466, 467, 473 and 474). This material appears to date from after the revival of the Order in 1725. Shaw obtained a number of manuscripts and printed works which previously belonged to the herald Sir Albert William Woods (Eng MSS 472-477). The collection also contains Shaw's notes and transcripts relating more generally to English knighthoods (Eng MSS 463-465) as well as manuscript drafts of his published work entitled The Knights of England (Eng MSS 461 and 462).