Digitization of the Thomas Cook Archive Announced

23 September 2013

Adam Matthew today announced the signing of an agreement with the world’s oldest and best known holiday provider, Thomas Cook, to digitize their archive as part of a forthcoming digital resource on the history of Mass Tourism and Leisure.

Thomas Cook, one of history’s great brands - and perhaps the first truly multinational corporation - is synonymous with the rise of popular tourism; an area of study that has increased dramatically over recent years.

From humble beginnings in the mid-19th century transporting temperance observers to rallies across the UK, Thomas Cook grew to provide tours across Europe, North America, the Middle East, and even around-the-world guided excursions. Within twenty years of his first trip to Paris, Thomas Cook had pioneered virtually all aspects of modern tourism and made international travel more accessible to the ‘middle classes’.

Covering the company history from its beginnings in 1841 to the present day, the Archive is a treasure trove of unique materials, including personal travel diaries, photographs, ephemera, promotional materials, periodicals, guide books and many other items.

Highlights include:

  • A manuscript account of the first Cook’s Tour to Switzerland in 1863. This hand-illustrated diary, written by a member of the touring party and entitled ‘Miss Jemima’s trip to Switzerland’, was found in a skip during the Second World War and donated to the Thomas Cook archives where it has become one of the centrepieces of their collection. 
  • The Excursionist – a travel newspaper published by Thomas Cook from 1851, featuring details of Cook’s Tours and articles on travel and foreign places/customs, plus advertising. Editions from the UK, USA, Europe, Australasia and ‘the Orient’ are included.
  • The Gordon Relief Expedition – Thomas Cook played a key role in the British government’s notorious attempt to rescue General Gordon from the siege of Khartoum. Thomas Cook & Son arranged the transport of the British Army, thanks to their knowledge of transporting on the Nile.
  • Tourism during the Great War – incredibly, Thomas Cook continued to run tours of the European Continent throughout the First World War, 1914-18.

“I’m delighted that Adam Matthew chose to digitize and publish the Thomas Cook Archive and we welcome both the preservation and the dissemination of this fascinating collection” said Paul Smith, company archivist.

“The Thomas Cook Archive is the ‘jewel in the crown’ of archival collections for the study of mass tourism. I know that many of our users will be fascinated by this incredible material and we’re proud to have the archive in our project” added Martha Fogg, Development Director at Adam Matthew.


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. http://www.thomascookgroup.com/