Empire Online

Spanning five centuries, and charting the rise and fall of empires around the world, Empire Online enables students and researchers to explore colonial history, politics, culture and society.

With primary source material from American, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, German and British perspectives, Empire Online provides varying points-of-view for comparative research. Documents from Africa, India and North America are also featured.

Students and researchers of colonial history, society, trade and travel, politics and culture are encouraged to explore a diverse range of topics and subjects from ship’s logs to missionaries in Africa. 

The vast selection of printed, manuscript and visual primary source documents available within this digital resource are supported with interactive teaching tools to enable the demonstration of the theories, practices and consequences of empire.

Key Data

Period Covered

  • Late 15th to early 21st century


  • Tens of thousands of pages of unique primary source material including maps, manuscripts, pamphlets, paintings, drawings and rare books
  • Material spans five centuries with content selected by an editorial board of leading academics from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA
  • To enhance teaching and research a range of learning tools, including interactive maps, historiography, searching aids and biographies of individuals who shaped the course of Empire are featured to contextualise the source material

Source Archives

  • Anti-Slavery International
  • Bank of England
  • Birmingham Central Library
  • Bodleian Library, Oxford
  • Cambridge University Library
  • Harvard College Library
  • National Art Library, The Victorian & Albert Museum
  • The British Library
  • The Glenbow Museum, Canada
  • The National Archives, UK
  • The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Edinburgh
  • Plus an additional 14 supporting libraries and organisations

Material Types

  • Exploration journals and logs
  • Letter books and correspondence
  • Periodicals
  • Diaries
  • Official Government Papers
  • Missionary papers
  • Travel writing
  • Slave papers
  • Memoirs
  • Fiction
  • Children's Adventure Stories
  • Traditional folk tales
  • Exhibition Catalogues and guides
  • Maps
  • Marketing Posters
  • Photographs and Illustrations, with many in colour.

Editorial Board

  • Jeffrey Auerbach, California State University at Northridge
  • Tony Ballantyne, University of Otago
  • Antoinette Burton, University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign
  • Elizabeth Elbourne, McGill University
  • Ian C Fletcher and Dr YaĂ«l Simpson Fletcher, Georgia State University
  • Alan Frost, La Trobe University
  • Patrick Geoghegan, Trinity College, Dublin
  • Christopher Gordon-Craig, University of Alberta
  • Madhavi Kale, Bryn Mawr College
  • Dane Kennedy, George Washington University
  • Chandani LokugĂ©, Monash University
  • Doug Lorimer, Wilfred Laurier University
  • Lucy Lyons, Northwestern University
  • Julian Martin, University of Alberta
  • Andrew Porter, King’s College, University of London
  • Romita Ray, Syracuse University
  • Jane Samson, University of Alberta
  • Angela Woollacott, MacQuarie University


  • Colonisation and Decolonisation
  • The East India Company
  • The Military
  • Missionaries
  • Slavery
  • Travel and Travel Writing
  • Cultural Contacts
  • Empire Writing/ Literature of Empire
  • The Visible Empire
  • Religion
  • Race, Class and Imperialism

Key Features

  • Highly indexed manuscript and full text printed material, with a broad range of document types.
  • Detailed indexing of metadata enables the sources to be explored in a variety of ways (by period, by date, by person and subject).
  • Interactive chronology and data maps charting the histories and the spread of empires across the globe.
  • An extensive image gallery showcasing the people, places and events important to the history of empire studies.
  • Essays by consultant editors introducing the material and suggesting possible pathways for research and teaching.