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“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time ”
Documents containing statistics and statements, sometimes illustrated, relating to an organisation's achievements in the preceding year.
Why they were created
Created to apprise stakeholders of an organisation's progress, thus serving an accountability purpose.
Who might have created them
Created at the direction of the management board or officials responsible for overseeing the running of an organisation, i.e. a charity, business, society, education establishment, etc.
Where you might find them
Usually found with official minutes of meetings held by an organisation, or with series of publications issued by an organisation. Commonly found in the following collections:
- Pressure groups
- Schools and universities
- Hospitals and asylums
- Children's homes
Period from which they most commonly survive
Commonly appear from the 19th century onwards.
- Paper, multi-leaf
- Typescript or printed
- Usually stitched, stapled or glued together in booklet format
- List of management board and committee members
- List of office holders, where applicable
- Message from president or similar office holder
- Overview of the year's achievements
- Photographs documenting key events (usually in post-19th century examples)
- Sometimes incorporate printed financial statement for the year, although this may be separate
Things to consider:
- Annual reports are published by an organisation for circulation to stakeholders as a record of the organisation's achievements and developments in a given year
- Continued external financial and political support for an organisation might be determined by the perceived success or failure of that organisation in the preceding year
- Given the semi-public nature of these documents we can surmise that an organisation might omit certain pieces of information to create a positive image, we should therefore consider other records in conjunction with annual reports to get the full picture of the position of an organisation in a given year
Annual reports can be useful when undertaking research into the following areas:
- Activities, values and interests of a particular organisation in a given year
- Progress over time of a particular organisation
- Individuals associated with a given organisation
- Comparison of progress and/or interests of similar types of organisation in a given period
Resources at Hull History Centre
Search for further examples of annual reports using our online catalogue. Try using search terms such as annual report, half yearly report, etc.
Alternatively, if you prefer to browse, the file below contains a list of annual reports held at Hull History Centre. Please note that this list is not comprehensive, but represents key examples of the document type.
The following secondary literature provides a detailed look at the annual report as historical evidence, and explores how annual reports have been used in research:
- P. Stanton and J. Stanton, 'Corporate annual reports: research perspectives used' in Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal vol.15 issue no.4 (2002)