Catalogue description Foreign and Commonwealth Office and predecessors: Records of Former Colonial Administrations: Migrated Archives

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Details of FCO 141
Reference: FCO 141
Title: Foreign and Commonwealth Office and predecessors: Records of Former Colonial Administrations: Migrated Archives

The records cover a wide range of subject matter relating to colonial administration. They represent what was happening in the territories, mostly prior to independence, and Her Majesty's Government's views at that time, complementing other records held at The National Archives.

Date: 1835-2012

The series contains material from the following territories, arranged alphabetically by the then name of the territory whilst under British administration.

  • Aden;
  • Anguilla;
  • Bahamas;
  • Basutoland;
  • Bechuanaland;
  • British Guiana;
  • British Indian Ocean Territories (BIOT);
  • Brunei;
  • Cameroons;
  • Ceylon;
  • Cyprus;
  • Fiji;
  • Gambia;
  • Gilbert and Ellice Islands;
  • Gold Coast;
  • Jamaica;
  • Kenya;
  • Malaya;
  • Malta;
  • Mauritius;
  • New Hebrides;
  • Nigeria;
  • North Borneo;
  • Northern Rhodesia;
  • Nyasaland;
  • Palestine;
  • Sarawak;
  • Seychelles;
  • Sierra Leone;
  • Singapore;
  • Solomon Islands (BSIP);
  • Southern Rhodesia;
  • Swaziland;
  • Tanganyika;
  • Trinidad and Tobago;
  • Turks and Caicos;
  • Tuvalu;
  • Uganda;
  • West Indies;
  • Western Pacific;
  • Zanzibar.

The piece numbers assigned to individual files reflect the storage order in which they arrived at The National Archives. Therefore, the records relating to each territory do not always form a single sequence or reflect any sequences implied by former references used before transfer to The National Archives.

Related material:

See also: CO 1035

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)

Colonial Office, 1854-1966

Commonwealth Office, 1966-1968

Commonwealth Relations Office, 1947-1966

Dominions Office, 1925-1947

Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 1968-

Physical description: 19957 files and volumes
Restrictions on use: Additional safe handling procedures are in place. Records must be ordered in advance.
Access conditions: Open unless otherwise stated
Immediate source of acquisition:

In 2012-2016 Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Custodial history: In the custody of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office before transfer to The National Archives.
Selection and destruction information: The Migrated Archives collection was selected under The National Archives acquisition policy criteria 3.1.2 External Relations and Defence.
Accruals: Records were transferred into this series in eight batches in 2012 and 2013 in line with a timetable published online by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. No further accruals are now expected.
Administrative / biographical background:

This material was created by former British colonial administrations as part of their daily administration activities.

As British dependent territories came to independence decisions had to be taken about which papers to destroy, which to leave for successor administrations, and which to ship back to the UK. The general rule, as set out in a Colonial Office guidance telegram of 3 May 1961 on the 'disposal of classified records and accountable documents', was that successor Governments should not be given papers which:

  • might embarrass Her Majesty's Government or other governments;
  • might embarrass members of the police, military forces, public servants or others eg police informers;
  • might compromise sources of intelligence information; or
  • might be used unethically by Ministers in the successor government.

In addition 'There would be little object in handing over documents which would patently be of no value to the successor government'. A great many documents were destroyed on this basis, but others were returned to the UK.

The content and status of the migrated archives is covered in the FCO internal review carried out by Anthony Cary (former British High Commissioner to Canada 2007-2010) and laid before Parliament in February 2011.

Some files created by the Colonial Office Intelligence and Security Department (otherwise in CO 1035) and the records management branch of the FCO have been included in this series. These records provide background information on the colonial administration files and how they were managed over time, including some destruction records.

Snapshots from 2013 of the timetable for transferring these records to The National Archives are available in the UK Government Web Archive.

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