QUERY: Colonial Jamaica Archives in Canada and the U.S.

Sheri Crawford's picture

I am PhD student in Canada working on a dissertation about the history of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.  I've been diagnosed with a serious illness and have been told that I cannot travel by plane- so I can't access archives in the U.K. or in Jamaica.  I've come across  some scattered material, but I haven't been able to find any comprehensive collections in University archives about colonial Jamaica.  Does anyone know of any relevant archives or institutional collections that I can access in Canada or the North-East  U.S? 

Hello Sheri,

So sorry to hear about your travel limitations. I’m not sure where you are in Canada but the Art Gallery of Ontario recently acquired an incredible collection of photographs from the Caribbean that may be of interest to you?


Hi Sheri,

I am sorry I can't be of much help on the archive front, but I just ran into a new title I thought you might find interesting, in case you are not familiar with it: Victorian Jamaica, an edited volume by Barringer and Modest (2018), concerning visual representations and material objects.

Hope this helps a little and good luck,

I'm not aware of anything that could be considered comprehensive. Most of the Colonial Office and similar records that I've found in Canada are only from the series relating to British North America (CO 42, etc.). However, check if your institution has access to the Adam Matthew Direct collections of digitized records, particularly the Confidential Print series. There are quite a few records relating to the West Indies in there covering the period you are concerned with.

For a price, the UK National Archives will also make copies of some records. It may be worth contacting them for a quote and an idea of what might be available.

I would encourage any scholars reading this who have images or other access to Jamaican records to reach out to you as well. Best of luck!

If you haven't already done so, it'd be worth doing a trawl through the online Parliamentary Papers. There might be pertinent stuff in the correspondence b/n the CO and the Governors of Jamaica, a good deal of which was printed for Parliament (tho', alas, on a scattershot and unpredictable basis). The printed Governors' despatches are often accompanied by enclosures that convey more of a ground-level feel for what's going on in the colonies themselves.

Also, interesting stuff on the Constabulary might well come up via Select Committee & Royal Commission inquiries, all of which are available via the online PP (inquiries into the handling of the Morant Bay Rebellion, for instance).

Have you checked the New York Public Library? They might have some materials related to your topic. The RISM Materials At NYU might also be useful (https://guides.nyu.edu/c.php?g=276641&p=1845303). Interlibrary loan departments are also very resourceful in ordering materials (for e.g., Blue Books, Digest of laws).

The University of Florida has one of the largest archives related to the Caribbean and Latin America. They may be able to help, or at least direct you to an archive closer to home.

Hello everyone,

Thank you all for your suggestions and well wishes, you have given me some good leads to follow up on, and it is much appreciated.