Materials for social history occur throughout the collection. At the highest social level are illustrated accounts of royal marriages and funerals which are well represented in the French, German, and Dutch holdings. Dysfunction in society is recorded in law reports which are held in abundance for Ireland and Great Britain and there is a substantial holding of 18th-century French legal Mémoires.
Newspapers and periodicals become increasingly important during the 19th century as a mirror of middle- and upper-class society. The Illustrated London News is the best-known of the 19th-century reporting periodicals but others such as The Graphic and the Dublin-published The Lady of the House are good sources. Much can be gleaned about leisure pursuits from the music and theatre collections.
There are numerous works on the lives of the poor in the 19th century, generally in studies of cities although agricultural surveys report on the lives of the rural poor.
Attitudes to perceived social evils can be studied in sermons printed from the 16th to the 19th century. Sermons range from denunciations of social practices to pious memorials of the dead and charitable appeals.