Black Britain: archives and manuscripts

Typewritten manuscript with corrections in pencil
E.R. Braithwaite’s annotated typescript of To Sir, With Love (shelfmark: Add MS 88987) © Estate of E.R. Braithwaite

Archives, manuscripts and Web Archive resources on Black Britain

About the collection

We have significant literary archives and manuscripts relating to Black writing in the UK in the 20th and 21st centuries. Collections include:

Our archives of other contemporary Caribbean writers include Shiva Naipaul and Jean Rhys.

Our 18th century collections include autograph letters of Ignatius Sancho and Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, both of whom were enslaved and achieved their freedom.

We hold extensive records relating to the trade in enslaved people and British imperialism around the world including in Africa, Asia and the Americas. These include the papers of the British colonial administrator and defender of slavery, Edward Long, whose book The History of Jamaica (1774) is notorious for its racist depictions of Black people.

We also hold manuscripts from Africa.

Web Archive

On the Open UK Web Archive you can find thematic collections of websites dating back to 2006 and as recent as last year. Websites such as Black History Month and are harvested regularly. There is a 2007 collection relating to ‘Slavery and Abolition in the Caribbean’.

The Legal Deposit UK Web Archive includes websites of the Black Cultural Archives and the Voice newspaper. You can view this content in our Reading Rooms only.

What is available online?

See the Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue to research these collections.

Our online exhibitions include:

  • Windrush Stories - featuring articles on Caribbean-British history, migration and culture, and digitised material by E R Braithwaite, James Berry, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Beryl Gilroy, C L R James, Errol John, Claudia Jones, Andrea Levy, Shiva Naipaul, Vincent Reid, Andrew Salkey and Benjamin Zephaniah.
  • West Africa - featuring a letter by Ayuba Suleiman Diallo.

You can find further selections of digitised material and articles on our Discovering Literature website (which includes literary and theatrical manuscripts, contextual historical items and ephemera):

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Use the Manuscripts Reading Room or Asian and African Studies Reading Room to view original manuscripts. We don't generally provide access to uncatalogued material, but please contact the Manuscripts Reference Enquiry Team for further advice on this.

The Legal Deposit UK Web Archive is available in all our Reading Rooms.

What is available in other organisations?

Important collections include:

The National Archives' online resources include:

Other websites with relevant historical themes include: