Colonial America

Complete CO5 files from The National Archives, UK, 1606-1822

A 'game changing' development for historians and researchers of early America, Colonial America enables access to a vast archive of circa 70,000 manuscript documents – now fully searchable using Handwritten Text Recognition technology.

Sourced from The National Archives UK, Colonial America offers access to thousands of documents on North America from 1606-1822. Described as an ‘indispensable’ resource for researchers of the early-modern Atlantic world and winner of Library Journal’s ‘Best Reference’ Award, scholars and researchers have clamoured for access to this material for years.


Colonial America offers transformative research possibilities with full-text searching across all manuscript documents using Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR).

HTR is a groundbreaking search technology utilising artificial intelligence to deliver document-level full-text search results in manuscript material. The HTR application uses complex algorithms and artificial intelligence to determine possible combinations of characters in handwritten documents. This enables relevant handwritten text to be identified at document level, allowing users to easily navigate between highlighted search results. Read more or watch the demonstration video.

Key Data


  • Module I: Early Settlement, Expansion and Rivalries
  • Module II: Towards Revolution
  • Module III: The American Revolution 
  • Module IV: Legislation and Politics in the Colonies [New for 2018]
  • Module V: Growth, Trade and Development [2019]

Period Covered

  • 1606-1822

Source Archive

  • The National Archives, UK

Material Types

  • Letters
  • Charters and commissions
  • Orders to officials
  • Court records
  • Land grants and cadastral lists
  • Maps and building plans
  • Diaries
  • Newspapers
  • Printed pamphlets, broadsides and speeches
  • Texts of acts of assemblies
  • Military documents
  • Petitions
  • Public notices and proclamations
  • Financial documents
  • Shipping lists

Editorial Board

  • Max Edelson, University of Virginia
  • Craig Gallagher, Boston College
  • Patrick Griffin, Notre Dame University
  • Tim Lockley, University of Warwick
  • James Sidbury, Rice University
  • Neil York, Brigham Young University


  • Beginning and expansion of English settlement
  • The development of colonial institutions
  • Colonial legislation
  • Education
  • Economic and industrial development
  • Settlers’ relationships with Native Americans
  • English/British relations with the Dutch, French and Spanish
  • Trade and protectionism
  • Taxation
  • Militias, garrisons and military preparedness
  • Warfare
  • Alliances and diplomacy
  • Peace negotiations
  • Naval matters
  • Piracy and privateering
  • Tobacco, sugar and other commodities
  • Religious matters
  • Slavery and the slave trade
  • Non-British immigration
  • Surveying and exploration
  • Colonial relationships with the British government
  • The Glorious Revolution
  • Political protest and unrest
  • The American Revolution

Key Features

  • Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) search technology delivering document-level full-text search results across all handwritten manuscript documents, view demo.
  • A five-module collection of complete set of CO 5 files from The National Archives, including material extracted from parent files and stored separately.
  • Comprehensive compilation of metadata for manuscript documents ensuring maximum searchability and ease of access for researchers.
  • Essays by leading academics to explore and contextualise the original material.
  • Map gallery showcasing extensive collection of colour maps associated with the material.


Remarkable, multilayered product

When completed, Colonial America will offer all 1,450 volumes of the CO5 series (records of the British Colonial Office, class 5) from the National Archives, UK, spanning 1606 to ......

This unique scholarly resource is suitable for academic institutions that support researchers working in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century American history.

This specialized academic database collects the 1450 volumes of the "CO 5" collection from the National Archives in the UK, covering the period 1606 to 1822. "CO 5" consists of ......

This database is a superb addition to any research collection.

Colonial America, a primary source database from Adam Matthew, features the entire archive of documents from the agencies that oversaw the British colonies in North America and the ......

This is a rich and extensive digital archive enhanced by thorough and thoughtful organization and judicious application of technology.

Colonial America is an extensive digital resource built using the Colonial Office document collection (mostly manuscripts) held by the National Archives in London. The collection includes original correspondence between the ......

Highly recommended. Beginning students through researchers/faculty; professionals/practitioners.

Visited Aug'16 - The Colonial America curated collection is a welcome addition to the growing lineup of digitized primary source materials related to early America. A collaboration between publisher Adam ......

Highly recommended to historians, professors, and scholars of the colonial American period

This is the second installment of Adam Matthew's prolific database series, Colonial America. This five-module digital series began in 2015 with Module 1: Early Settlement, Expansion, and Rivalries ......

Highly recommended. Beginning students through researchers/faculty; professionals/practitioners.

In addition to assembling for easy access the early documents of the American Revolution, Colonial America: Module 2 also connects scholars to a large cache of British colonial documents concerning ......

Adam Matthew assumes a leading position in eighteenth-century studies with Colonial America

Review Summary: Colonial America is a uniquely rich resource for all historians and researchers of the earlymodern Atlantic world. It opens The National Archives UK to a much broader audience ......