The India Office Records

Author

Lead Curator India Office Records, British Library
The vast archive known as the India Office Records, occupying approximately nine miles of shelving in the British Library, contains the documents created or received in London by three organisations crucial to the British colonial effort in the period 1600–1858.

The India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records comprise the official archives of the India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. (1858–1947) and its predecessors the East India Company (1600–1858) and the Board of Control Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India, appointed by an Act of Parliament to supervise the East India Company. (1784–1858), the government body which was set up to oversee the Company in the wake of public concern about its activities. This vast archive, occupying approximately nine miles of shelving in the British Library, contains the documents created or received in London by these organisations. They also include the papers of related bodies such as the Bushire Residency A diplomatic office of the British Government established in the provinces and regions considered part of, or under the influence of, British India. and the Bahrain Agency An office of the British Government and, earlier, of the East India Company. as well as the records of the Burma Office (1937–48).

From Commercial Activity to Territorial Control

These official records document the commercial activities of the East India Company, its development as a territorial power from the late eighteenth century and the operations of the India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. , the government department which superseded the East India Company and Board of Control Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India, appointed by an Act of Parliament to supervise the East India Company. following the Indian Uprising of 1857–58.

BL image 079201, Map of the British Empire. From: The Graphic, supplement, 24 July 1886
BL image 079201, Map of the British Empire. From: The Graphic, supplement, 24 July 1886

Wide Geographical Scope

Although present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma are the main focus of the records, they also contain incredibly rich resources for the study of areas such as the Middle East and Central Asia, which were strategically important to the British. The records also include much material relating to Saint Helena, the Cape of Good Hope, Southeast and East Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.

The wide geographical scope of the archive reflects the strategic and practical importance of the routes between Britain and Asia and the extent of the Indian diaspora as well as the commercial, political and military interests of the British during this period.

Correspondence, Reports and Private Papers

The East India Company and subsequently the India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. relied on detailed correspondence and reports from their officers overseas in order to be able to conduct their business. This is reflected in the extraordinary richness of the archive which documents British and international social, economic, political and military history but also includes the finer detail of everyday lives.

Extract of a list of one-hundred confidential subject headings from a Bushire Residency index (IOR/Z/R/15/1/4)
Extract of a list of one-hundred confidential subject headings from a Bushire Residency index (IOR/Z/R/15/1/4)

They are complemented by the India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Private Papers, which provide a different perspective from officialdom. There are also extensive collections, at national archives and in private collections, held in the countries documented by the India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records and Private Papers.

The India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records have been arranged in groups of documents roughly reflecting the organisation of the East India Company, Board of Control Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India, appointed by an Act of Parliament to supervise the East India Company. and India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. . Material from two of the groups, namely the Bushire Residency A diplomatic office of the British Government established in the provinces and regions considered part of, or under the influence of, British India. (IOR/R/15/1) and Bahrain Agency An office of the British Government and, earlier, of the East India Company. (IOR/R/15/2) records, and a selection of India Office The department of the British Government to which the Government of India reported between 1858 and 1947. The successor to the Court of Directors. Records maps have been catalogued in detail and form part of the digital archive available here.