Thomas Cook Archives
Thomas Cook possesses a unique collection of archive material covering all aspects of the company's history from the founder’s first excursion on 5 July 1841 to the present. This material is held in the Company Archives, which functions as a corporate ‘memory’, offering an information service to Thomas Cook's various departments and to interested members of the public, as well as providing research facilities for academics, journalists and picture researchers from all over the world.
Handbooks, programmes and brochures, 1845-present
Our main series of brochures begins in 1889 and, apart from a few small gaps, continues uninterrupted right up to the present day. This is the most extensive collection in the Archives, numbering several thousand items and covering most holiday destinations around the world. We also hold a small number of 'handbooks', forerunners of the holiday brochure, the earliest of which was published in connection with a trip to Liverpool in 1845. These small booklets contain detailed itineraries, descriptions of the chief places of interest along the route and lists of suitable hotels and boarding houses.
Copies of Cook’s Excursionist newspaper, 1851-1902, and its successor, The Traveller’s Gazette magazine, 1902-39
First issued by Thomas Cook to promote his trips to London's Great Exhibition in 1851, Cook's Excursionist provides page after page of detailed itineraries, fares, lists of hotels and Cook's offices, testimonial letters, accounts of tours, advertisements and editorial comment. The monthly issues of this publication, which was eventually issued in 13 separate editions around the world, document not only the expansion of Thomas Cook's business but also the early development of tourism itself. As such, this is probably the most important collection in the Archives.
Travellers' incidental records (ephemera), 1870s-present
A wonderful miscellany of itineraries, tickets, hotel coupons, luggage labels, menus, circular notes and handbills issued to Cook's tourists.
Travellers’ diaries (originals and copies), 1855-1980
Many of Cook's early tourists maintained written accounts of their travels and adventures. Around 35 of these diaries, including those of Miss Jemima Morrell (who accompanied Thomas Cook on his first trip to Switzerland in 1863) and Miss Riggs (who went on the first Cook's Tour of Egypt and the Holy Land in 1869), may be consulted in the Archives.
Photographs of premises, staff and travellers, 1860s-1970s
We have an extensive collection of historical photographs of Cook's offices around the world (mostly exterior shots), the majority of which date from the first half of the 20th century. We also hold photographs of Cook's tourists (mostly in Egypt) and staff from the late 19th century.
Company business records, 1870s-present
Relatively few business records survive in the Thomas Cook Archives. The main series include agreement books (1871-1929), John Mason Cook's correspondence (1870s-1890s), board minute books (from 1924) and annual reports (from 1947). We also hold detailed information about Thomas Cook's sale to Wagons-Lits in 1928 and the company's arrangements with the British Government during and immediately after WW2. Our most extensive collection of business records, however, relates to Thomas Cook's operations in Egypt in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Railway timetables, 1873-2013
First published in March 1873, Cook's Continental Time Tables and Tourist's Handbook listed details of all the main railway, diligence and steamship routes across Europe. The handbook was initially issued on a quarterly basis, but it became a monthly publication in 1883. (N.B. Thomas Cook stopped producing the European Timetable in August 2013, although some of its former compilers have recently resumed publication of the title.) A companion volume, Thomas Cook's Overseas Timetable, was also published six times a year between 1981 and 2010. Copies of the earliest timetables (1873-75) may be consulted in the Archives, along with almost every post-WW2 issue. Our collection for the period 1909-1939 is also extensive, but unfortunately we hold only two further examples from the late Victorian and Edwardian periods.
Travellers’ guidebooks, 1874-2013
Thomas Cook published his first guidebooks – for 'Switzerland' and 'Holland, Belgium & the Rhine' – in 1874. These guides were designed to provide relevant information for tourists, particularly those travelling under Thomas Cook's own arrangements, and were not intended to rival the more comprehensive volumes of Murray or Baedeker. Cook's guides still proved very popular, however, and more than 30 titles (some revised many times) appeared over the next 65 years. Most of these pre-WW2 guidebooks are available to researchers in the Thomas Cook Archives, where they may be studied alongside their modern counterparts (published by Thomas Cook between 1993 and 2013).
For further information about Thomas Cook's history or archives, please contact:
Name: Paul Smith, Company Archivist
Thomas Cook Archives
Peterborough Business Park
Telephone: +44 (0) 1733 417350
Fax: +44 (0) 1733 416255
- The Thomas Cook Archives are open to researchers, by appointment only, from 10am to 4.30pm, Tuesdays to Thursdays (except public holidays).
- Space is limited, so it is advisable to contact the Archives at least one week before your proposed visit.
- All researchers will be asked to sign a copy of our standard research form on their first visit.
- A copy of any work resulting from research in the Archives should be sent to the Archivist upon publication.