Colonial Caribbean

CO Files from The National Archives, UK

The definitive collection of primary source documentation to explore life under British colonial rule.

This extensive digital resource covers three centuries of Caribbean history. Drawn from the vast archives of the British Colonial Office, this is simply an essential resource for all students and researchers of the Caribbean and British colonial rule.

This enormous range of unique primary sources covers British governance of 25 territories in the Caribbean from 1624-1872, meeting teaching and research needs across a wide variety of themes, from settlement and colonial rivalries in the region, to the economics of the plantation systems and the impact of slavery, to crime and punishment and the everyday lives of the people that called the islands home.

Colonial Office File Classes
  • CO 7/1-144: Antigua and Montserrat (Original Correspondence)
  • CO 8/1-31: Antigua (Acts)
  • CO 23/1-203: Bahamas (includes Turks and Caicos Islands up to 1848)
  • CO 28/1-213: Barbados
  • CO 37/1-200: Bermuda
  • CO 71/1-141: Dominica
  • CO 101/1-130: Grenada
  • CO 110/1-25: Guadeloupe
  • CO 111/1-382: British Guiana, formerly Berbice, Demerara and Essequibo (Original Correspondence)
  • CO 116/1-239: British Guiana, formerly Berbice, Demerara and Essequibo (Miscellanea)
  • CO 123/142: British Honduras
  • CO 137/1-454: Jamaica
  • CO 152/1-106: Leeward Islands (Original Correspondence)
  • CO 154/1-6: Leeward Islands (Acts)
  • CO 166/1-7: Martinique
  • CO 175/1-20: Montserrat
  • CO 184/1-19: Nevis
  • CO 239/1-123: St Christopher (St. Kitts), Nevis and Anguilla
  • CO 245/1-10: Santo Domingo
  • CO 253/1-147: St. Lucia
  • CO 260/1-113: St. Vincent
  • CO 285/1-88: Tobago
  • CO 295/1-254: Trinidad
  • CO 301/1-56: Turks and Caicos
  • CO 314/1-22: Virgin Islands
  • CO 318/1-260: West Indies
  • WO 1/19-60,404-405: West Indies

Modules include

Module Summary Date
Settlement, Slavery, and Empire

This first module stretches from the turbulent years of early British settlement to the rise of the abolition movement, amongst the fierce rivalries with the Spanish, Danish, French and Dutch in the Caribbean region. 'Settlement, Slavery, and Empire, 1624-1832' documents the rise of absentee landlords, and traces the rise and decline of the slave trade, from the regular transportation of enslaved peoples through trade and shipping, to the rise of the abolition movement.

Colonial Government and Abolition

The second module of Colonial Caribbean explores a crucial shift in the fight to end slavery. The documents cover the passing of the Slavery Abolition Act and the impact this had on the government of these islands, including the introduction of apprenticeships and resistance to the changes in legislation.

Economic Change and Indentured Labour

The third and final module of the expansive Colonial Caribbean collection studies a turbulent period of economic decline and uprising across the region. The documents, drawn from The National Archives, UK, explore the rise of indentured labour of Chinese and Indian workers against a backdrop of injustice and poverty in previously enslaved communities leading to widespread rebellion across the Caribbean.


Key data

Period covered


Source archive

  • The National Archives, UK
  • Absentee landlords and estate ownership
  • Crime and punishment
  • Finance and economy
  • Trade and shipping
  • Law and governance
  • Mutiny and piracy
  • Plantation governance, maintenance and labour
  • Religion
  • Slavery, abolition and emancipation
  • Uprisings and revolts
  • War and the military
  • Appointments of Governors and Agents
  • Census data and statistics
  • Correspondence
  • Draft bills
  • Land Board papers
  • Legislative acts
  • Maps and plans
  • Medical reports
  • Military reports
  • Newspapers
  • Ordinances
  • Petitions
  • Proclamations
  • Kristen Block, University of Tennessee
  • Heather Cateau, University of the West Indies
  • Christopher Hodson, Brigham Young University
  • David Trotman, York University, CA
  • Nuala Zahedieh, University of Edinburgh
  • Dan Gilfoyle, Principle Records Specialist, The National Archives, UK
  • Kristy Warren, Research Fellow with a focus on the Transatlantic Histories of People of African Descent, UK
  • James Dawkins, University of Nottingham, UK
  • Lizabeth Paravisini, Vassar College, US
  • Communities, Peoples and Nations
  • Ethnic and Indigenous Studies
  • Great Britain, Republic of Ireland and Northern Irish Studies
  • Latin American Studies
  • Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR)

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