Colonial and postcolonial history that shaped modern Asia from the 1840s through the 1960s
State Papers Online Colonial: Asia, Part I: Far East, Hong Kong, and Wei-Hai-Wei is the first part of a major new program bringing the British Colonial Office files (CO series) to a global audience and expanding on the colonial history of Southeast Asia. State Papers Online Colonial: Asia will be composed of four parts and represents the digitization of the British Colonial Office’s files of documents now housed in The National Archives in the United Kingdom.
These working files bear witness to the two very different sides in the colonial relationship in the history of Southeast Asia: a British government whose main priority was the acquisition of commodities, wealth, and labor during the colonialism of Asia; and the local people living under colonial rule and British-style institutions for law, health, education, policing, defense, agriculture, and industry.
All of the documents have been imaged in color, which will enable users to clearly read the annotations in different colors by British Colonial Office officers and ministers commenting on the documents—bringing extra insight into the thoughts and actions of the time during the colonial history of Southeast Asia.
The earliest documents are the British government’s correspondence with the East India Company about trade in Asia during colonialism in Asia; the administration and trials of the East India Company; rivalry with the Dutch; the opium trade; as well as other initiatives in the East, such as the first British Embassy to China. Later documents cover the development of trade and administration of the Far East territories. Subjects include control of opium trafficking, rubber production, Kuomintang activities, military administration after World War II, planning for reconstruction in the Far Eastern colonies (Borneo, Hong Kong, and Malaya, as they were called at the time), constitutional reform of Hong Kong, reports on prisons, and the effect of the closure of British firms in China.
These documents, many formerly confidential, illustrate Britain’s administration and governance of these countries during colonialism in Asia, as well as their international relations across the period and the changing demographics and daily lives of their inhabitants. The colonial history reflected in these records influenced the now-independent countries today through their strategic alliances, institutional structures, and the ongoing repercussions of their colonial legacy. It is imperative to comprehending regional politics to this day.
Colonialism in Asia is an intense focus of scholars studying nationalism, activities under an empire, and the colonization of a region like Southeast Asia. Deriving information from primary sources allows scholars and researchers alike to further analyze and comprehend this pivotal time period in colonial rule and how Asian society navigated this period in history. Recognizing the attitudes and intentions of both government bodies and personal accounts during this period allows historians to apply knowledge to issues facing the globe today and critique policy through an informed lens.
This collection improves the content and expansiveness of any library, offering resources often unattainable to larger audiences and securing this knowledge in further study and instruction. Research into subjects like British Malaysia, anticolonial movements, figures like Ho Chi Minh, as well as a general understanding of the actions and policies that take place during colonial rule and colonial periods position faculty, scholars, and researchers to both further understand the materials at hand and to engage in more detailed and focused discussion moving forward.
Manuscript series (The National Archives, UK) in Part I include:
- CO 77, 1570–1856: East Indies
- CO 825 and CO 872, 1927–1951: Far East colonies and foreign relations with the Far East
- CO 865 and CO 975, 1942–1945: Far Eastern reconstruction
- CO 882, 1843–1952: Confidential print, Eastern
- CO 537, 1878–1952: Confidential original correspondence
- CO 1030, 1941–1967: Far Eastern department
- CO 1022, 1950–1956: Southeast Asia department
- CO 1023, 1946–1955: Hong Kong and Pacific department
- CO 403 and CO 489, 1843–1926: Hong Kong
- CO 521, CO 770, CO 771, and CO 873, 1898–1933: Original correspondence of Wei-Hai-Wei
- CO 700, CO 1047, CO 1054, and CO 1069: Maps
- CO 1069: Colonial office photographs
Platform Features & Tools
Search across State Papers Domestic, Foreign, Ireland, and the registers of the Privy Council from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries.
View two manuscripts side by side to compare drafts or handwriting.
Multiple Ways to Explore
Search across the calendar entries and link to the manuscript, or browse each manuscript volume folio by folio.