The Cause Papers

Online Resource
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Scope and Content

Cause papers are case papers from an ecclesiastical court - in this case, from the York diocese. This church court archive commences in 1300 and dates through the Renaissance and Reformation periods and into the mid-Victorian era. It offers insight into northern English life through multiple moments of major historical change.

Church courts had jurisdiction over matrimony and probate cases, defamation and slander cases, non-payment of tithes (taxes) and internal church matters. This archive holds over 15,000 cause papers and related material. It has been organised and digitised by an expert team from the Universities of York and Sheffield and offers access to all.


This is a description of an Online Resource. Online Resources are websites that describe, interpret and provide access to archives. They often provide access to digital content but they may also describe physical materials. They usually cover a theme or topic, such as an individual, a movement, or an important historical event.

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A Jisc funded digitisation initiative. Publisher: University of York and University of Sheffield

Additional Information

The Cause papers are of use to social, local and family historians, church historians, legal historians and teachers or lecturers working in the areas of social history, medieval history and religious studies.

Images of cause papers from between the 16th and 18th centuries can be viewed through the database. Abstracts are available for all users to view, but registration is required for those who wish to contribute abstracts. All users may reference the archive's material, but permission must be sought to reproduce any of the available cause paper images.