The Calendar of State Papers Colonial, America and West Indies contains indexed transcripts and abstracts of a wide range of documents relating to the American and West Indian colonies. For many searches, use of the material provided in the calendar may be sufficient. If you want to see the original documents, this note explains the arrangement of the calendar and the means of locating the records. Alternatively, you may prefer to use the CD-ROM edition of the calendar, published by Routledge in 2000, which gives modern references to all documents included
The first volume of the calendar, published in 1860, covers the period 1574 to 1660. It is indexed to page numbers. Subsequent volumes cover periods of between one and seven years. In these, the references given in the indexes are to item numbers, not to page numbers. The series currently extends to 1739 (volume XLV, published in 1994). A later series of calendars concerns the period of the American Revolution (Documents of the American Revolution, 1770-1783).
Before work began on the calendar, most of the papers were previously arranged in two categories, 'America and West Indies' (the correspondence between the governors and the secretary of state), and 'Board of Trade' (the correspondence with that department). It was considered 'more convenient for the simplification of a printed calendar' to alter that arrangement and to adopt one chronological sequence, divided primarily by colony and type of document. The bulk of these records are now in CO record classes. However, the calendar also contains references to papers in other series, such as various classes of State Papers Domestic and records of the War Office.
2. Finding the Modern Document Reference
- Note that where enclosures are listed under the transcript or précis of a letter or despatch, the reference will be given at the very end, after the last enclosure.
- In the volumes of the calendar for 1701 onwards, the currently valid document reference is given.
- Up to and including 1700, the calendar volumes use document references from the old arrangement of records. The references are given in square brackets at the end of each entry in the form.
[Board of Trade, Plantations General, 5]
[Board of Trade, New York, 54]
[America and West Indies, Bermuda, 447]
These references need to be converted into modern National Archives references, using the three-volume manuscript key shelved with the calendar at The National Archives. This key has been published as appendix B of Charles M Andrews, Guide to the Materials for American History, to 1783, in The National Archives of Great Britain, Volume 1 The State Papers (1912). See below for how to use the key.
3. Using the Key
To use the manuscript key to locate the first of the references given above, 'Board of Trade, Plantations General, 5', first consult the contents list at the front of each volume of the key to identify the one covering 'Board of Trade, Plantations General'. The first part of the index page to volume 1 reads as follows
|This volume contains keys to the following superseded references:-|
|Colonial Entry Books||p 45|
|America and West Indies||p 53|
|Board of Trade Acts||p 115|
|Board of Trade (Antigua-Virginia)||p 213|
|Board of Trade (Plantations General)||p 309|
Turn to page 309 of volume 1 of the key:
|Key to Board of Trade 309|
|Old Ref||New Ref|
|BT Pennsylvania||CO 5|
|BT Plantations General||CO 323|
The reference given in the calendar as 'Board of Trade, Plantations General, 5', should now be ordered as CO 323/3.