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The colonial ‘Blue Books’ originated in a request from the Commons Select Committee of Finance in 1817 for returns of offices in the colonies.  A book asking for the return of statistical information was first sent to each governor in 1822 and similar returns were to be made in future as soon as possible after the close of every year.  The earliest ‘Blue Books’ consist of manuscript entries upon printed forms.  Later volumes are completely printed. 

Contents include, among other topics:

  • Taxes, duties and other sources of revenue
  • Military expenditure
  • Civil establishment, including names, ranks, and salaries
  • Legislation, laws, and proclamations
  • Population statistics, marriages, births and deaths
  • Import and export statistics
  • Gaols and prisons
  • Meteorological observations

For a more detailed outline of information held in the Colonial Blue Books please click here

A collection of African Blue Books has been digitised by Microform Academic Publishers and made available in their British Online Archives database. The database is free to search and browse, and forms an excellent index to our physical collection of Blue Books in Cambridge University Library. See: SCOLMA news item on African Blue Books to link to the database. The University of Cambridge does not have access to the online Blue Books (access is by subscription), but we do hold the real things!

Online catalogue records for all colonial 'Blue Books' held in the Royal Commonwealth Society collection can now be found in the University Library's online catalogue, iDiscover (

Requests for colonial 'Blue Books' should be made in the Rare Books Reading Room.

Some of the more interesting finds from the RCS collection of 'Blue Books' can be found below:

Water-colour illustrations of plants found in the Gold Coast Blue Book, 1858

Dar Es Salaam Water Aerodrome
Tanganyika Blue Book, 1938

Corradino Prison, Malta
Malta Blue Book, 1875

Links to online catalogue
iDiscover Search link (

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