Colonial America—Files of the British Colonial Office now Online from the Library!

The files of the British Colonial Office in London’s National Archive have long been available in the Library on microfilm rolls of variable quality. However, the days of juggling rolls and threading film in readers is over. The Library has Modules I & II in the Colonial America online resource—pristine, archival quality images of letters, legal documents, orders, printed pamphlets, maps, and other material types, downloadable as PDFs and fully searchable for easy reference. Online publisher Adam Matthew is delighted to be able to deliver groundbreaking Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) technology for keyword searching of manuscripts.

Modules I & II give researchers access to an invaluable collection covering colonial affairs of the 17th and 18th centuries—the first Anglo settlements, colonial charters, reaction to England’s Glorious Revolution, piracy and the rivalry with France and Spain for control of the Atlantic, military records from the French and Indian War, the social and political protests that led to the Declaration of Independence, the legal aftermath of the Boston Tea Party, and a wealth of information on military affairs and Native Americans.

The files cover events both momentous and small. For instance, clicking the “Not sure where to start” button, selecting “captive” from the list of popular searches, and filtering the search by Document Type “correspondence”; Colony/Region “Virginia”; Module “Towards Revolution”; and Theme “American Indians” takes you to a July 12, 1768 letter from Virginia Representative John Blair to Lord Hillsborough “touching on a boundary with the Indians,” but also on the story of “an unfortunate young Algerian.” The seventeen-year-old was sailing to Fez but was captured by a French ship, transported to North America, and taken to live among Native Americans for 3 years. He made his escape and found his way to a frontier settlement in Augusta County, and eventually home—just one of many nuggets of life in the files that enrich and humanize the study of History. Please read the brochure.

Page of a letter from Virginia Representative John Blair relating the story of a Muslim man and his adventure in the American wilderness.

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