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Image: Chamberlain Bridge, Barbados, c.1910. Photographer unknown (Y3072A/8)

The Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) collections hold a diverse and fascinating range of published, archival and photographic records of Britain's former colonial territories in the Caribbean - the islands known as the West Indies and British Guiana. The majority date from the late 19th century to the mid to late 20th century but there are some important earlier accounts too.

The collection comprises official/government reports, yearbooks and directories, guidebooks, bibliographies, monographs, periodicals and pamphlets, poetry and fiction, memoirs and correspondence, scrapbooks and press cuttings, and some photograph albums.

The descriptions below link to online catalogues where they are available and in some cases to very detailed descriptions of individual files or photographs.

Earliest records

Some of the earliest records in the collection include:

Photographs

Photographic records include:

For a summary of photographic holdings relating to the West Indies and British Guiana (Guyana), see:

Archives

Archival collections include:

Government reports

Government reports include Blue books:

  • The blue book for the Colony of Tobago, (later continued by the Trinidad and Tobago Blue book) is held from 1824-1888, with 1882-1884 volumes entirely printed, the rest part printed, part manuscript.
  • The Bermuda Blue Book of 1840, recording the introduction of American cotton goods to the island, includes sample swatches of the different grades of cotton cloth.

Other government reports include staff and civil lists:

Directories and yearbooks

Directories and yearbooks include:

Fiction and poetry

Fiction and poetry include:

Rare books

Rare books include:

Periodicals

Periodical holdings include:

Help

For guidance searching for items in the Royal Commonwealth Society collections, please refer first to the RCS web pages, in particular:

For a summary of photographic holdings relating to the West Indies and British Guiana (Guyana), see:

For guidance in searching for official publications within the RCS collections, see:

Our collection DOES NOT include the minutes of the Society of West India Merchants or the West India Committee. These are held by the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, but microfilm copies are held by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London. For more details see: http://www.aim25.ac.uk/cgi-bin/vcdf/detail? coll_id=4590&inst_id=16&nv1=browse&nv2=person

Donations

The Royal Commonwealth Society Library is not actively collecting new archival collections, photographs or manuscripts. However, donations of small collections which complement its existing collections will be considered.

Potential donors should contact the Smuts Librarian with details of their collection including, in the case of photograph collections, approximately how many images, whether or not they are captioned, geographical regions covered, dates, and, where known, the names of photographers or collectors.

Consideration will be given to the size and condition of the collection, as well as its subject content and provenance. If the Library feels unable to accept a collection, advice about alternative repositories will be given.

Contact us

Please address enquiries about RCS holdings to:

Rachel Rowe, Smuts Librarian for South Asian and Commonwealth Studies
Cambridge University Library
West Road
Cambridge
CB3 9DR

Email: rcs@lib.cam.ac.uk

Please note the Librarian is part-time and usually works at the University Library on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Rachel may be reached by phone on Wednesdays and Thursdays on +44(0)1223 333146, but it is preferable to email details of your enquiry.

If your enquiry concerns a valuation, please note that we are unable to provide valuations.  We recommend you contact a specialist antiquarian bookseller or auction house.