Online British Imperial History Archives and Collections

This list was compiled particularly to help students navigate imperial history topics while archives and libraries are closed.  It focuses on sources for histories of the British Empire; see also the list of digital archives relating to global history. We welcome suggestions of additonal resources. 

General Collections and Databases

Adam Matthew Digital (themed collections of UK National Archive documents, available on free trial):

Bodleian Historical Databases:

Bodleian Digital Collection

British Empire Online list of sources

British History Online (1300-1800)

British Oral History collections:

British Library’s Oral Histories:

Reading’s The Immigrant Project:

Sikhs in Scotland:

Birmingham Black Oral History Project:

Making Histories:

British Parliamentary Debates (from 1800)

British Pathé and Reuters Historical Collection            

  • Wide range of newsreel collections from 1910 onward.

Cambridge University Digital Library                           

  • Relevant collections include: Royal Commonwealth Society, Royal Commonwealth Society 150, Joseph Needham Collection, Bateson Archive (eg 1880s tour of central Asia), Voices of Civilian Internment: WWII Singapore, Royal Greenwich Observatory Archives, Darwin-Hooker Letters.

Chatham House Online Archive 1920-2008:

CIA Electronic Reading Room

Colonial Film

Commonwealth Online Archive

The Digital Grainger The first edition of The Sugar-Cane, a 168-page poem about eighteenth-century Caribbean sugar plantations, appeared in London in 1764.

Foreign Relations of the US Collection

See also Digital National Security Archive (George Washington University – Collection of Non-Governmental Papers relating to Foreign Affairs/Security)

Gale / Cengage Historical Newspapers:

Historic Environment Image Resource:

Indigenous Digital Archive:

Institute for Historical Research researcher guide:

League of Nations Digitized Publications and Archives

Legacies of British Slave-Ownership Project:

Musée national de la Marine: - French naval and colonial objects

Missionary archives, e.g.:

Basel Mission Photographs

Yale Divinity School

Oxford and Empire Project’s Objects of Empire Collection (digitised material culture on Cabinet):

ProQuest History Vault (*temporary access to 31 May 2020):

  • Collection is primarily USA-focused, but does include: sections on British Foreign Office Correspondence; and Creation of Israel – British Foreign Office correspondence on Palestine and Transjordan, 1940-48.

Royal Museums Greenwich:

Collections of Britain’s National Maritime Museum, The Royal Observatory, Cutty Sark, and the Queen’s House, including imperial, maritime, and scientific holdings

Red Cross Archives (Humanitarianism)

See also Audio-Visual Collections of the Red Cross

Slave Revolt in Jamaica, A Cartographic Narrative

SOAS Digital Collections                                                

Wilson Centre Digital Collections (Histories of Internationalism)

Canada, between the US and Empire, 1883-1904: In the Papers of the Governor General

Héritage – Canadiana: - digitized microforms of French and British colonial and military correspondence, 17th – 18th centuries and beyond

International African Institute (Leiden) database of online resources:

Simon Fraser University Digital Collections (Immigrant/Indigenous Experience in Canada)