Colonial Office Records

The Colonial Office was the government department responsible for Britain’s colonies at various points throughout the 18th to 20th centuries. It issued instructions to colonial governors, authorised expenditures and determined the broad direction of policy for the Empire.

In this episode, we look at three documents that provide insight into the experiences of people living under British rule: a letter from 1921 from black sailors in Wales to the Prime Minister; a 17th-century slave-trading ship’s journal; and service records of African soldiers fighting in the First World War.

Download the full episode transcript here.

Documents from The National Archives used in this episode: CO 323/885, T 70/1211, CO 1069/65.

If you’re interested in finding out more about records covered in this episode, take a look at our research guides to Slavery and the British transatlantic slave trade, Colonies and dependencies from 1782 and Soldiers in African forces under British control. Our guides are presented in a very factual manner and do not address the horrors and violence of some of the topics covered. However, by sharing these resources we hope to support your further study.

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