Fonds consists of records collected by Matthews for his dissertation and during his tenure as chair of the Maritime History Group, as well as his prior research. The fonds includes material for his research into the study of the Newfoundland/West of England fisheries, the subject of his doctoral thesis, as well as extensive data on the individuals and businesses involved in the early settlement and trade of Newfoundland, up to 1850.
The early modern documents are a collection of copies of over 1200 documents held at repositories in Britain relating to political development and trade in Newfoundland in the 17th and 18th centuries. The 19th and 20th century Newfoundland documents are copies of individual documents and collections of documents relating to the Newfoundland fishery and its government and politics, drawn mostly from records of the Colonial Office, Newfoundland governors papers and papers of Newfoundland prime ministers. The fonds also includes Matthew's research notes and personal papers.
The fonds is arranged in five series: Series 1. Early Modern Documents, 1500-1800; Series 2. Name Files, 1500-1850; Series 3. 19th and 20th Century Documents; Series 4. Research Notes; Series 5. Personal papers.