PAST Thematic Overview: Modern Black History

The National Archives holds one of the largest collections in the world, containing over 11 million historical government and public records

The National Archives collection spans 1,000 years. Throughout this period, there has been a Black presence in Britain, and in the collection. Colonial expansion from the 16th century onwards and global migration have only increased the number and richness of sources for the study of Black history within The National Archives.


This half-day online workshop will provide an overview of the most useful sources and methods for research in this area.

The records held by The National Archives were created from the perspective of the state and empire – they bear witness to injustice, racism, colonial violence; but also to the long and continued fight for self-determination and racial equality. However, researching Black history within The National Archives is not intuitive – evidence is scattered across the records of dozens of different government departments and described in archaic, oblique and often offensive terms. Recovering the lives, voices and agency of Black people within records created by the state is also challenging.

This workshop will provide researchers with the skills to begin tackling these challenges. It will offer:

  • An overview of the principal sources for Black British history. The workshop will give you an insight into the range of sources available for research in this area and offer advice from our specialists on how to approach the archive thematically.
  • Case studies on specific topics and records that facilitate the study of Black British history in the archive. We will explore case studies focusing on protest movements, surveillance and the Mangrove Nine (1970), and resistance to nineteenth century colonialism in the British Caribbean.

By the end of the workshop, attendees will be equipped with the skills to navigate government archives, and the strategies to locate sources for the study of Black British history.


  • Welcome and introductions
  • Researching Black British history at The National Archives: an overview
  • Protest movements and surveillance, the Mangrove Nine, 1970
  • Resistance, rebellion, and reprisal in the nineteenth-century British Caribbean

What is a PAST Thematic Overview workshop?

The Postgraduate Archival Skills Training (PAST) programme offers students a unique opportunity to obtain the skills and knowledge needed to undertake academic research using original records at The National Archives.

This workshop is part of our new series of Thematic Overviews, which are designed to provide you with guidance on approaching the archive from a thematic perspective, highlighting records from across different areas of The National Archives’ collection.

Date and time: Tue, 18 Apr 2023 14:00 – 17:00 BST

Register for this online event here

This is a short online workshop and so will not provide in-depth instruction on navigating and interpreting original historical records. For more in-depth training taking place on-site at The National Archives and involving hands-on document work, please see our other workshops in the PAST programme.

For more information about the PAST programme and to see other workshops in the series, please visit The National Archives’ website or email

You can join the conversation and learn more about our other PAST workshops by following #TNAPAST