Colonial Correspondence

Why does this document exist?

Colonial Correspondence contains a vast range of materials created by and sent to the colonial government in the Colonies of Vancouver Island (1843-1866) and British Columbia (1858-1871). Underfunded and under-administered, the colonial government had few departments and little staff or inclination to organize its filing system into discrete units. Government Record (GR) 1372, Colonial Correspondence, not only contains thousands of letters relating to the governance of the colony, including the orders and reports about the Chilcotin War, but also documents about a wide range of issues relating to economy, culture and society. This correspondence includes, for example: transcripts of inquests; death warrants; petitions from citizens for publicly funded services like post offices, roads and schools; complaints about local officials; problems with and questions about land; and a variety of other materials.

We have kept Colonial Dispatches as a separate document type distinct from this Colonial Correspondence. The “Dispatches” are the official correspondence between the governor and the Colonial Office in England whereas the “Correspondence” is internal to the colony.

Why would we use this source?

Colonial Correspondence is a gold mine of information about colonial British Columbia. It not only documents the activity and interests of the government and the judiciary of the period, but is a rich source of information about a wide variety of issues of concern to the people who wrote with complaints, inquiries or pleas for help from the governing body. For anyone interested in any aspect of colonial government, law and society, this collection is an excellent place to begin research. Like any source, it is not going to tell us exactly what happened in the past, but it does let us "see" a very wide range of issues that concerned people.

How do we find and use this source?

Government Record (GR) 1372, Colonial Correspondence, is indexed by the author of the letters. There is also a Subject Guide card catalogue in the BC Archives Reading Room that identifies letters about many particular events, topics and places. The Correspondence Outward of the Department of Lands and Works (1859-1972), which contains a great deal of valuable information about the settlement and use of land in colonial British Columbia, is filed separately in GR 2900. To leave this site, and explore this source at the British Columbia Archives, go to:

British Columbia
Colonial correspondence
Originals 1857-1872, 18.9 m
Microfilm (neg.) 1857-1872, 35 mm 76 reels [B01300 - B01375]

British Columbia (Colony)
Lands and Works Dept
Lands and Works Dept. correspondence outward
Originals 1859-1872 38 m