Caribbean collections


The British Library holds the largest collection of Caribbean materials in the UK, including unique or very rare printed and manuscript materials on exploration, conquest, slavery and natural history.

About the collection

The collection spans the 16th century through to the present day covering the English-, French- and Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Researchers will find sources on European conquest and colonialism, privateering, plantation society, slavery and abolition, independence movements, and 20th-century economy, politics and society.

What is available online?

Researchers can find images of the Caribbean from our collection at the British Library Online Gallery. The Caribbean Views exhibit and the Black Europeans exhibit will be of particular interest.

Researchers can also view images and links to full text copies of printed materials related to the Caribbean using the British Library’s Flickr account.

Caribbean-related digital collections can be found on the Endangered Archives Programme website.

Registered readers have access to the Library’s e-resource collections including official statistics databases and Caribbean digitised newspapers (1718-1876).

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Materials related to the Caribbean are available in English, Spanish, and French. Within our printed collections, accounts of exploration and conquest, medical texts, natural histories, and travelogues are strongly represented. Of particular note is the Sloane Printed Collection. We have strong holdings of 20th-century Caribbean literature, philosophy, poetry, and contemporary academic publications in the humanities from the Caribbean. We hold a wide range of Caribbean newspapers, the majority from the 19th and early 20th century. While many are short runs, they often cover key periods in the history of Caribbean, such as the abolition of slavery. Our manuscripts are especially strong on British colonial expansion, plantation society, intra-colonial conflicts, slavery and the slave trade, and abolition.

We have a unique collection of correspondence between Thomas Clarkson and Henri Christophe, papers on the British occupation of Havana, as well as hundreds of manuscript maps from the 17th- and 18th-century Caribbean. Our maps collection holds thousands of maps of the Caribbean, including some of the earliest representations of the region, as well as topographical drawings, watercolours and prints of the Caribbean which are part of The King George III Topographical Collection. The India Office Records are of great value to scholars of indentured labour, the abolition of slavery and the Asian diaspora in the Americas.