The India Office Records comprise archives created and accumulated by the India Office (1858-1947) and its offshoot the Burma Office (1937-48), or inherited or otherwise acquired by the India Office from its predecessor bodies mainly the East India Company 1600-1858 and the Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India (1784-1858); also archives created or acquired by the India Office Records acting as the successor to the India and Burma Offices in respect of their archives.
The records relate to British commercial and political relations with India, south and south-east Asia, and other countries with which the East India Company established contact; they also contain voluminous information on the British administrations in India and Burma.
Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India, 1784-1858
Burma Office, 1937-1948
East India Company, 1600-1858
India Office, 1858-1947
15 km (volumes, files, charters, maps)
Open to public access except for recent personal files, and a very small number of subject files
South East Asia
Administrative / biographical background:
The East India Company was established in 1600 as a joint-stock association of English merchants trading to the 'Indies'. Over a period of 250 years the Company underwent several substantial changes in its basic character and functions. A period of rivalry with a 'New' Company after 1698 resulted in the formation in 1709 of the United Company. This 'new' East India Company was transformed during the second half of the eighteenth century from a mainly commercial body with scattered Asian trading interests into a major territorial power in India with its headquarters at Calcutta. The political implications of this development eventually caused the British Government to institute a standing Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India (or 'Board of Control') to exercise supervision over the Company's Indian policies. This change in the Company's status, along with other factors, led to the Acts of Parliament of 1813 and 1833, which opened the British trade with the East Indies to all shipping and resulted in the Company's complete withdrawal from its commercial functions.
The Company continued to exercise responsibility, under the supervision of the Board, for the government of India until the re-organisation of 1858. With the India Act of 1858 the Company and the Board of Control were replaced by a single new department, the India Office, under a Secretary of State. In 1937, the separation of Burma from India led to the creation in London of a Burma Office separate from the India Office, though still under the same Secretary of State.
With the achievement of independence by India and Pakistan in 1947, and by Burma in 1948, both the India and Burma Offices were dissolved. Thereafter their archives were administered by the Indian Records Section, from 1962 known as the India Office Records, of the Commonwealth Relations Office (later the Commonwealth Office) and from 1968 by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
In 1982 the India Office Records (together with the India Office Library) were placed on deposit with the British Library Board and have been administered, as Public Records, by the British Library Oriental and India Office Collections.