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27 May 2024

India Office catalogue records added to Discovery platform

750,000 India Office Records (IOR) catalogue descriptions have recently been uploaded to the National Archives’ Discovery platform, providing access while the British Library’s Explore Archives and Manuscripts catalogue is out of action. 

Researchers can use this catalogue to search for IOR materials, make a note of relevant references, and then visit the British Library to order material for consultation. The interim website provides information on reader registration and ordering during the ongoing disruption to library services. 

This post provides an overview of what’s included, what isn’t, and tips on how to use the Discovery platform. 

What is included

The records uploaded consist of the majority of the official IOR collections, including records of the East India Company, the Board of Control for the Affairs of India, the India Office and the Burma Office. 

Older IOR descriptions in Discovery were deleted and replaced with updated versions dating from April 2023. 

The following IOR classes, record groups or fonds have been uploaded: 

  • IOR/A Charters, Statutes and Treaties 
  • IOR/B Minutes of the East India Company’s Directors and Proprietors 
  • IOR/C Council of India 
  • IOR/D Minutes and Memoranda of General Committees and Offices of the East India Company 
  • IOR/E East India Company General Correspondence 
  • IOR/F Records of the Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India 
  • IOR/G East India Company Factory Records 
  • IOR/H Home Miscellaneous 
  • IOR/I Records relating to other Europeans in India 
  • IOR/J Records of the East India College, Haileybury 
  • IOR/K Records of institutions in Britain connected to the East India Company and India Office 
  • IOR/L/AG Accountant General’s Records 
  • IOR/L/E Economic Department Records 
  • IOR/L/F Financial Department Records 
  • IOR/L/I Information Department Records 
  • IOR/L/L Legal Advisor’s Records 
  • IOR/L/MAR Marine Department Records 
  • IOR/L/MIL Military Department Records 
  • IOR/L/PARL Parliamentary Branch Records 
  • IOR/L/PJ Public and Judicial Department 
  • IOR/L/PO Private Office Papers 
  • IOR/L/PS Political and Secret Department Records 
  • IOR/L/PWD Public Works Department Records 
  • IOR/L/R Record Department Papers 
  • IOR/L/SG Services and General Department Records 
  • IOR/L/SUR Surveyor’s Records 
  • IOR/L/WS War Staff Papers 
  • IOR/M Burma Office Records 
  • IOR/N Ecclesiastical Returns 
  • IOR/O Biographical Series 
  • IOR/Q Commission, Committee and Conference Records 
  • IOR/R Records transferred later through official channels 
  • IOR/S Linguistic Survey of India Records 
  • IOR/V Official Publications 
  • IOR/X India Office Maps Reference Collection 

What is not included

Recent additions to the India Office Private Papers (IOPP) have not yet been uploaded. 

Entries for index volumes (IOR/Z) have not been uploaded, as they lack descriptive information and are more easily browsed and located using the physical lists in the British Library Asian and African Studies Reading Room.

Using Discovery

Discovery primarily holds catalogue records for the National Archives, but also hosts descriptions from over 3,500 other UK archive repositories. 

There are extensive help guides to be found in the Discovery help pages, but we will show you a couple of helpful tips below. 

Filters

You can use the Filters to restrict search results to records held by the British Library. For the India Office Records, use the ‘British Library: Asian and African Studies’ filter, found under ‘Other archives’. 

Screengrab of filter selection
Screengrab showing filter selection for British Library: Asian and African Studies

Navigating the hierarchy

The India Office Records are organised into record groups as discussed above. If you know which record group you wish to use you can easily find it by searching for its reference in quotations, e.g. “IOR/E” will return the entry for the East India Company General Correspondence.  

You can view records within this section by using the ‘(browse here from hierarchy’) link at the top of the description.

Screengrab of IOR/E description
Screengrab showing hierarchy link above IOR/E description

 This will show you the ‘child’ records of IOR/E on the right-hand side of the screen, as well as listing the other higher level IOR descriptions in reference order.

Screengrab showing IOR/E with child records
Screengrab showing IOR/E, with child records

If you wanted to see all the higher level IOR descriptions arranged in reference order, you could search for “IOR/A” (note the quotation marks), click into the description, then select ‘browse here from hierarchy’.

Similarly, if you search on a subject and topic and find an interesting entry, you can navigate using the hierarchy to browse other records within the sequence. For example, a search for 'Irrigation control Iraq' returns IOR/L/PS/20/C253/1, f 162, a map showing irrigation control in central and lower Iraq. The hierarchy can then be used to view the descriptions for the military report containing the map, the books within the Political and Secret Department Library ‘C’ Range, or the records of the whole departmental library.

Screengrab showing catalogue hierarchy
Screengrab showing the hierarchy for IOR/L/PS/20/C253/1

 Advanced search

The advanced search option can be used to specify search term combinations within reference groupings and dates.  

For example, a search for ‘tax’ within reference IOR/L/PJ (Political and Judicial Department) for the years 1880-1900 returns 52 records. 

Screensgrab showing advanced search
Screengrab showing search results for tax within IOR/L/PJ, 1880-1900