Primary Sources: Caribbean Blue Books, 1824-1950

cover imageRecently added to our collection of British Online Archives are the Caribbean Blue Books, 1824-1950, statistical records for the colonies of Antigua, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Honduras, Dominica, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Christopher, Nevis, St Lucia, St. Vincent, Tortola, the Turks Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Trinidad and Tobago. The records include the years 1839-1938, though some begin in 1824 and others continue to 1950.

The Blue Books include population numbers, education reports, grants of land, imports and exports, and prison statistics.

Primary Sources: British Documents on the End of Empire Project

British Documents on the End of Empire (BDEEP) is an online platform providing access to full-text downloadable copies of three series of books produced by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London. The volumes contain largely previously unpublished materials from the official archives of the British Public Record Office (now U.K. National Archives).

Each volume was edited by a leading scholar in the field of decolonization, who located and analyzed “key documentation charting shifts in the political, social, and economic policies of officials, both at home and in the colonies.” As stated at the site, the volumes “contain a wealth of material on issues such as constitutional reform, economic development and foreign relations which remain remarkably relevant to the work of contemporary policy-makers in the UK and across the Commonwealth.”

Series A is volumes of general British government documents relating to the British Empire. Series B is volumes on particular countries. Series C volumes are guides to archival sources at the Public Record Office.

Series A
1. Imperial Policy and Colonial Practice, 1925-1945 (in two parts, 1996), edited by SR Ashton and SE Stockwell
2. The Labour Government and the End of Empire, 1945-1951 (in four parts, 1992), edited by Ronald Hyam
3. The Conservative Government and the End of Empire, 1951-1957 (in three parts, 1994), edited by David Goldsworthy
4. The Conservative Government and the End of Empire, 1957-1964 (in two parts, 2000), edited by Ronald Hyam and Wm Roger Louis
5. East of Suez and the Commonwealth, 1964-1971 (in three parts, 2004), edited by SR Ashton and Wm Roger Louis

Series B
1. Ghana (in two parts, 1992), edited by R Rathbone
2. Sri Lanka (in two parts, 1997), edited by KM De Silva 3. Malaya (in three parts, 1995), edited by AJ Stockwell 4. Egypt and the Defence of the Middle East, 1945-1949 (in three parts, 1998), edited by John Kent
5. Sudan (in two parts, 1998), edited by Douglas H Johnson
6. The West Indies (in one part, 1999), edited by SR Ashton and David Killingray
7. Nigeria (in two parts, 2001), edited by Martin Lynn
8. Malaysia (in one part, 2004), edited by AJ Stockwell
9. Central Africa (in two parts, 2005), edited by Philip Murphy
10. Fiji (in one part, 2006), edited by Brij V Lal
11. Malta (in one part, 2006), edited by Simon C Smith

Series C
1. Records of the Colonial Office, Dominions Office, Commonwealth Relations Office and Commonwealth Office (in one part, 1995), edited by Anne Thurston
2. Records of the Cabinet, Foreign Office, Treasury and Other Records (in one part, 1998), edited by Anne Thurston

The Library has only a few of the print volumes in its collection. Many thanks to James Vernon for making me aware of this valuable resources. A link to this site has been added to the History: Britain & Ireland subject guide at

Primary Sources: British Online Archives

British Online Archives (BOA) consists of eleven thematic series, each containing individual collections of archival contents. The series are largely oriented toward British and British colonial history and new collections are added as they become available. The eleven series comprising BOA are:

  • Anglo-American Relations
  • British Broadcasting Corporation
  • British Records on the Atlantic World, 1700-1900
  • Colonial & Missionary Records
  • Communist Party of Great Britain
  • Industrial Revolution
  • People & Protest in Britain and Abroad, 1800-2000
  • Twentieth Century Political History
  • Records of the Raj
  • Religion
  • Science & Medicine

Some of the collections are listed in more than one thematic series.

The digital collections have been converted from microform sets distributed by Microform Academic Publishers, a few of which the Library already owns. There are guides associated with each collection, which will assist researchers in browsing. Basic and advance searching are offered; the advanced search function allows a choice between searching “all collections” or selecting only one collection at a time. Search results can be frustrating, because while the system will indicate where in a document the search terms appear, the terms are not highlighted in the document.

A major inconvenience is that the documents currently can only be printed or downloaded one page at a time. With Adobe Acrobat (free to all students, faculty and staff, remember) individual pages can be stitched together into one PDF, but I’m well aware of the extra effort that entails.

Despite these drawbacks, these collections can be of great value to researchers here. In future posts, I’ll be describing a few of them in more detail.