PAST Thematic Overview: Early Modern Colonial History

Date / time: 25 April, 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm

The National Archives is rich in records on Britain’s engagement with the rest of the world. Colonial, Admiralty and Map collections, amongst many others, tell the story of the development of British imperial power, colonial settlements, commercial expansion, and the trade in enslaved people, whilst also providing important insights into other European empires and the lives of indigenous people across Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Americas.

In this half-day online workshop, attendees will learn how to search, access, and contextualise colonial records from the late sixteenth century to the late eighteenth century. The sessions will explore:

How colonial affairs were administered and governed. The structures and mechanics of government are crucial to understanding where to look for colonial records. This opening lecture will address how colonial governance worked in order for attendees to gain a better understanding of the nature of the colonial administration and its archive.

How to easily identify and contextualise relevant early modern colonial records in The National Archives. Using case studies from colonial America and the Caribbean, we will look at how to access online sources as well as locate original records in The National Archives’ vast collections. Colonial records are wide-ranging in type, from correspondence and entry books to acts and sessional papers and military and naval dispatches.

How to develop research on transatlantic and plantation slavery. From the Colonial Office to Treasury, records of slavery are present across our collection. The session will introduce these types of records and the different ways they lend themselves to historical analysis.

By the end of the workshop, attendees will be equipped with the skills to navigate government archives, and the strategies to locate sources for the study of early modern colonial history. As well as short lectures, there will be opportunities for interactive tasks using digital tools and finding aids as well as short palaeographical exercises.


Image: Wiki Commons