Empire Studies

Research Source

Empire Studies offers a rich array of sources for the study of the British Empire.

The collection includes material on British colonial policy and government; perspectives on life in British colonies; the relationship between gender and empire; race; and class.

Sources include government and official records, personal papers and diaries, rare periodicals, and conference proceedings.

What collections are included in this module?

Empire and Commonwealth

Archives of the Royal Commonwealth Society from Cambridge University Library

This collection is divided into two parts. The first part details discussions related to relations with indigenous peoples, race and empire, initial cultural contacts and race and cultural interchange. Part 2 covers Imperial and Commonwealth Conferences from 1887 to 1955. It brings together three types of material from the RCS Collection: Minutes of Proceedings, Reports and Papers of Conference; Articles and periodical literature concerning the conferences and rare printed works providing a critical history of the Imperial and Commonwealth Conferences.  

Convict Transportation and the Metropolis

The Letterbooks and Papers of Duncan Campbell (1726-1803) from the State Library of New South Wales

Duncan Campbell (1726-1803), the successful and influential eighteenth-century West Indies merchant, is better known today for his role as the administrative lynchpin of convict transportation to Australia. This collection covers the complete set of letterbooks, and papers of Duncan Campbell held at the Mitchell Library at the State Library of New South Wales. Duncan Campbell’s letterbooks provide valuable information for those interested in British penal history and convict transportation to Jamaica, Virginia, and Australia.

The Empire Writes Back: Part Two

Black and Asian visitors to Britain, 1734-1942

This collection focuses on the lives and experiences of African and Asian visitors to Britain during the period 1734-1942. It provides the personal histories of some fifty men and women – many written in their own hand – and contains more than eighty printed works. While a number of these titles were printed in Britain a good selection were printed elsewhere, in Calcutta, Madras, Dacca, Bombay, Lucknow, Boston and New York, and include rare and first editions.

African and Colonial Journals: Part Three

Colonial Enterprise, Review of the Mines, Manufacturers & Industries of Greater Britain, 1984-1899

With detailed reports, articles and statistical analysis, this journal covers Africa, Australia, British Columbia, Canada, Western Australia and other British Colonial interests. It features a four-page weekly Mining Share List compiled by Samuel James, colonial banking and finance, reports on mining companies and a strong emphasis on diamonds, gold, coal, manufacturing industry, electrical engineering and new technology. The journal is a good source for Empire studies, economic history and world History.

Sex and Gender

Manuscript Sources from the National Archives

Focusing on the twin themes of Empire and Suffrage, this collection is made up of material  on four main areas: nationality law and its effects on women, the condition of indigenous women, female colonial subjects and women of colour, the extension of suffrage and other civil and political rights to women at home and in the dominions and the obligations of the UK as a member of international bodies and as a party to international treaties. The collection includes material from the UN on matters such as political freedom for women, the pay and working conditions of women, women's education and trafficking and prostitution.

Australia: Colonial Life and Settlement

The Colonial Secretary’s Papers, 1788-1825, from the State Archives and Records Authority of New South Wales

From the First Fleet in 1788 to the establishment of settlements across eastern Australia, this collection describes the transformation of Australia from a prison settlement to a new frontier which attracted farmers, businessmen and prospectors. The papers of the Colonial Secretary take the form of letters sent by the colonial government, memoranda, regulations, proclamations, petitions, reports, returns and letters received. There is much on the development of the colony as the biggest social experiment of all time and the social life of the colony is described as well as material on the importance of women for the success and development of the colony.

Empire and Colonial Administration

The Papers of Lachlan Macquarie (1762-1804) and Family from the State Library of New South Wales

Lachlan Macquarie has been described by historians as a visionary and realist, and a man particularly noted for his liberal attitude towards emancipists. This collection features his papers and those of his family held at the Mitchell Library in the State Library of New South Wales. Macquarie’s journals, diaries and letterbooks, written throughout his adult life from 1787-1824 describe his military career in India, Egypt and Britain, and his period as Governor of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land, 1809-1821.

Plantation Life in the Caribbean

Part 1: Jamaica c.1765-1848: The Taylor and Vanneck-Arcedekne Papers from Cambridge University Library and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London

This collection brings together two sets of excellent archival materials for the study of plantation life and slavery in Jamaica. Both feature a significant body of documents covering the career of Simon Taylor (1740-1813) who controlled six Jamaican plantations and played a full role in Jamaican politics. The Vanneck-Arcedekne Papers from Cambridge University Library - which are included here - provide the Jamaican Estate Papers relating to Golden Grove Plantation, Batchelors Hall, Spanish Town and Swamps Plantation and feature very detailed and often highly picturesque accounts of plantation life. The material from Cambridge University Library is combined with the Taylor Family Papers from the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London which include the correspondence and letter books of Simon Taylor (1740-1813), as well as documents by his friends and associates and other family members.

Key Data

Publication

  • 2019

Period Covered

  • 1930-1955

Subjects

  • British Empire
  • Industry and empire
  • Race
  • Gender
  • Suffrage and women’s rights
  • Policy and governance
  • Colonial life
  • Convict transportation
  • Travel writing

Material Types

  • Government files
  • Personal writings, diaries and journals
  • Correspondence
  • Conference proceedings
  • Rare books
  • Periodicals