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This month sees the launch of a new Royal Commonwealth Society collection on Cambridge Digital Library, with an initial selection of fascinating items available online for free to anyone with an internet connection.

The Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) Library collections are a treasure-trove of information, pictorial and written, print and manuscript, focussing on the Commonwealth and Britain's former colonial territories, comprising over 300,000 printed items, about 800 archival collections (including manuscript diaries, correspondence, pictures, cine films, scrapbooks and newspaper cuttings) and over 120,000 photographs. 

India features strongly in our first release, from spectacular panoramas of Bombay and Simla through to a beautiful set of 19th-century portrait miniatures. Also included are a fine collection of water colours and drawings by Andrew Arthur Anderson recording his travels in Southern Africa 1860-1890, capturing scenes from the Zulu War, and recording the topography, wildlife and ancient dwellings of the Kalahari Desert.

Our initial selection also includes some striking examples from the RCS photographic collections; Sir Henry Norman's images of late 20th century French Indo-China, China, Malaya, Siam, Korea and Japan, a set of mounted prints of Lourenço Marques (Maputo, Mozambique) and a group of spectacular panoramas of Hong Kong, Canton (modern-day Guangzhou) and Macau.

While this initial selection showcases the range and scope of the RCS collections, it is only a tiny fraction of the whole. Over the coming months and years we will be putting more and more material online to allow people from all over world to experience, study and enjoy this marvellous resource.

Image: Detail from Water colours and sketches of southern Africa (RCMS 191).