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India Office Private Papers

Collection Details

India Office Private Papers held at Asian and African Studies [Institution record]

Description of Collection

Content description

The India Office Private Papers comprise about 300 collections and over 3000 smaller deposits, relating primarily to India, with some material on surrounding countries, and covering the period 1600-1950s. The British Library's Manuscripts Department contains several large collections and very many small deposits of similar material.

They are mostly papers left by British men and women, and therefore illustrate chiefly the activities of the British in India, as Government officials, soldiers, scholars, missionaries, teachers, doctors, businessmen, railway engineers, planters, travellers, explorers and so on. Women are quite well represented among many of these groups. Subjects covered include political, administrative and military history; social life and leisure activities; study of oriental history, languages and civilisation; travel and geographical exploration both within India and beyond its borders; and race relations.

There are a few collections formed by Indians; but the indigenous peoples are seen mainly through British eyes.

History and development

The India Office Private Papers, known until the year 2000 as the European Manuscripts, trace their origin to the bequest in 1801 of the papers of Robert Orme, the Company's historiographer, and to the decision by the Directors of the East India Company, also in 1801, to establish a Library to receive books and manuscripts placed in their care by their servants in India and others. Since then the Collection has steadily grown. The late 1960s to the 1990s saw particularly vigorous expansion especially of collections relating to political and administrative history. Acquisitions are still being made by gift or purchase.

Strengths

Particular strengths are: chronologically: the period c1750-1947; geographically: India and Burma [Myanmar]; subjects: political and administrative history of British India, social life of British in India, correspondence between Viceroys and Secretaries of State for India, private diaries and memoirs.

General arrangement and access regulations

The arrangement is by individual collection or deposit.

Subjects of the Collection

Regions of Asia

Central Asia and the Caucasus, East Asia, Near & Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, South East Asia.

Countries

Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tibet.

Languages of material

English.

Subjects

Agriculture, Anthropology, Archaeology, Arts, Development, Economics, Education, Geography, History, International relations, Language, Literature, Medicine, Politics and government, Recreation, Religion, Sociology, Travel, Women.

Names relevant to the collection:

  • Indian Civil Service
  • Indian Army

Collection Material and Size of Collection

Material Types

Archival materials (includes non-published & mixed material), Manuscripts, Maps (includes all types of cartographic material), Theses.

Total size of collection

c1km

Collection Management Information

The collection is being actively developed, and the average intake has fallen.

Annual intake

100 files

Content date range

1600 to 1950 AD

Collection policy

The policy can be consulted on application to the India Office Private Papers Curator

Retention policy

India Office Private Papers are held on the basis that they will be permanently preserved once they have been entered in the Catalogue

Collection Catalogue Information

Catalogue

An automated catalogue is available in the Reading Room, and will shortly be available on the Worldwide Web. It offers descriptions at both collection and file level. The printed catalogues below cover almost all acquisitions up to 1996, and give very full descriptions for acquisitions up to 1937; but for acquisitions made after 1937, file level descriptions are available only in the form of typescript lists. A microfiche edition of the finding aids is included in the 'National Inventory of Documentary Sources in the UK & Ireland' (Chadwyck-Healey).

Collection printed catalogues

Catalogue of the European Manuscripts in the Oriental and India Office Collections of the British Library.
Blake, David M.
London, 1998.
This covers the whole of the Private Papers but at collection level only.

Catalogue of Manuscripts in European Languages belonging to the Library of the India Office: Vol I, The Mackenzie Collections, Pt I, The 1822 and the Private Collections.
Blagden, C.O.
London, 1916.

Catalogue of Manuscripts in European Languages belonging to the Library of the India Office: Vol I, Pt II, The Mackenzie General and Miscellaneous Collections.
Cotton, J.S. et al
London, 1992.

Catalogue of Manuscripts in European Languages belonging to the Library of the India Office: Vol II, Pt I, The Orme Collection.
Hill, S.C.
London, 1916.

Catalogue of Manuscripts in European Languages belonging to the Library of the India Office: Vol II, Pt II, Minor Collections and Miscellaneous Manuscripts, Section 1.
Kaye, G.R.
London, 1937.
There is a section II by E H Johnston which is unpublished.

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