View Full Version : Why do archive files on Britain’s colonial past keep going missing?

12-29-2017, 12:35 PM
“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

― George Orwell, 1984

The National Archives are home to more than 11m documents, many of them covering the most disturbing periods of Britain’s colonial past. The uncomfortable truths revealed in previously classified government files have proved invaluable to those seeking to understand this country’s history or to expose past injustices.
It is deeply concerning, therefore, to discover that about 1,000 files have gone missing after being removed by civil servants. Officially, the archives describe them as “misplaced while on loan to a government department”.
The files, each containing dozens of pages, cover subjects such as the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the British colonial administration in Palestine, tests on polio vaccines and territorial disputes between the UK and Argentina. It is unclear whether duplicates exist.


12-29-2017, 05:19 PM
The "loss" of files has happened before; notably in the build up to a civil court hearing in the UK, where the Kenyan claimants claimed to have been mistreated / tortured and the files were eventually found. For a lengthy, detailed explanation see:https://www.revolvy.com/main/index.php?s=Foreign%20and%20Commonwealth%20Office% 20migrated%20archives&item_type=topic

Shorter account and this shows determination by a FCO civil servant:
If the 35-year-old Kenya desk officer at the Africa department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had not made it his mission to find the 1,500 missing files, they would still be lying in secret archives at Hanslope Park. . . . Mr Inglett was told by IMG, repeatedly, that there was no trace of the files. Finally, on January 13, he announced that he was coming to Hanslope Park, with a lawyer, to find the files himself. Three days later, the files were found.

That well known case - to some - has been seen again in other recent cases where files deposited with the National Archives have been withdrawn for a review by the depositing department.

01-09-2018, 06:13 PM
An article by an academic historian that demolishes the original claims made and it ends with:
So is this part of a government cover-up? In short, no. There will always be limitations on government archives and files will unfortunately be lost. Has this changed the broader trends of British history? The answer has to be no again. As always, historians are encouraged to consult as many sources as possible. Even if the government was trying to stealthily manipulate history, past evidence shows they will not be successful.