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Enter the British National Archives from a Distance

By Jutta Seibert

The British National Archives in Kew are currently closed and may remain closed for the foreseeable future. While many unique documents housed there are inaccessible until the doors open again, some high-demand collections have been digitized.

Villanova University’s community gained digital access to twelve collections from the national archives through the Library’s acquisition of the Adam Matthew Digital backfiles. Each collection is self-contained and can be searched individually as well as through the Archives Direct portal.

Let’s take a closer look at the four Confidential Print collections. They feature documents issued or received by the British Foreign and Colonial Offices for distribution to members of the Foreign Office, Cabinet and British diplomatic missions abroad. These documents chronicle British interests in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and North America. Collections typically include reports, correspondence, political summaries, economic analyses, dispatches, descriptions of leading personalities, and maps, as well as one or more companion essays to contextualize the collection at the example of selected sources. These essays are written by leading academics in the field.

The Africa collection spans the modern colonial era (1834-1966), documenting watershed moments, such as the Berlin Conference of 1884 and the scramble for Africa, events in the Congo Free State, and the assertion of independence across the continent, all from the perspective of British government officials.

The Middle East collection (1839-1969 ) includes documents on the countries of the Levant and the Arabian peninsula, Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Sudan. Among the topics covered are the Middle East Conference of 1921, the mandates for Palestine and Mesopotamia, the partition of Palestine, the Suez Crisis, and the Arab-Israel conflict, all from the perspective of British government officials. A separate collection, Foreign Office Files for the Middle East, 1971-1981, sheds light on events from the following ten years.

The Latin America collection (1833-1969) comprises documents on the countries of Central and South America and the French- and Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Documents concerned with the English-speaking Caribbean are included in the North American collection. Slavery and slave trade in Cuba and Brazil, British emigrants, British business and financial interests in Latin America, political developments on the subcontinent, and the building of the Panama Canal are just a few of the subjects covered in this collection.

The North America collection (1824-1961) consists of documents on the United States, Canada, and the English-speaking Caribbean. Sources in the collection chronicle slavery, Prohibition, World War I and II, racial segregation, the League of Nations, McCarthyism, and the nuclear bomb, to name just a few.

Besides the Confidential Print collection, Archives Direct also includes Foreign Office files on the Middle East, China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Japan, the Macmillan Cabinet papers, government files on South Africa during Apartheid and President Nixon, and sources related to women’s fight for suffrage.

Access to Archives Direct is available via the Library’s Databases A-Z list and the catalog. Curious about other collections available through Adam Matthew Digital? Talk to your librarian and ask for a list of all collections.


Jutta Seibert is Director of Research Services and Scholarly Engagement at Falvey Memorial Library.

 

 

 



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Last Modified: April 29, 2020