The Bursar’s Records contain accounting and financial information for the College of William and Mary dating back to the mid 1700s. Unfortunately, some of these records have been lost due to fires and other events. However, the surviving records contain a wide variety of information that illuminate different aspects of life in early Virginia. For instance, one folder titled, “Statements of Revenue from Skins and Furs, 1763-1773” may provide useful information for anyone studying the environmental history of early Virginia, transatlantic trade, or capitalism in the Atlantic World.
The records of the Office of the Bursar contain a wide array of financial information dating back to the 18th century. Recently, these records have provided additional information about the College of William & Mary’s involvement in slavery and the slave trade. Many of the documents contain references to enslaved people who were held by the College, as well as payments to slaveholders for hiring enslaved people. These references show some of the ways that using enslaved people played an important role in the everyday functioning of the College.
Bishop William Meade graduated at the top of his class at Princeton. He studied for the Episcopal ministry at a time when the fortunes of the Church in Virginia were at a nadir after the disestablishment caused by the Revolutionary War. He was ordained by Bishop James Madison who was also serving as President of the College of William and Mary. Along with Bishop Richard Channing Moore, he led a revival of the Church along evangelical lines. In 1841, Meade became Bishop of Virginia. He died in 1862.
Before a collection makes its way to a researcher’s table in the reading room, archivists take considerable time preparing it: sorting, organizing, describing, and re-housing the material are all parts of archival processing.
The records of the Office of the Bursar are some of the earliest and most comprehensive records of the College of William and Mary, some from the 18th century survive to the present day! The accounts document the financial interactions of the College of William & Mary and its personnel in the 18th-19th centuries. While many people might not associate accounting records with interesting historical revelations, the Bursar records are an excellent example of how a wealth of diverse information can be tucked away in the seemingly mundane. For instance, a folder titled “Bursar Accounts, 1804-1818,” with documents titled “Accounts of Receipts and Expenditures” contains a trove of information regarding the College’s involvement with slavery.