When the Library opened in 1856 the British Empire was the dominant global power, with colonies and outposts all over the world – including Australia.
As a result, we have an in-depth collection of British parliamentary papers and other publications dealing with life in the extended British family. An important part of this collection relates to the exploration and colonisation of Australia, especially the establishment of the Port Phillip colony and Victoria.
There is a wide range of materials from other British colonies as well, including New Zealand, British India, Canada and the British colonies in Asia, Africa and other parts of the world.
We have a vast collection of books and journal articles, both academic and popular, on the history of the British Empire. Royal Society publications such as those from the Royal Society of Victoria and the Royal Asiatic Society are full of local history, science and culture.
The Library also has material dealing with the 20th-century imperial conferences that reshaped the old colonial relationships and saw the emergence of the Commonwealth of Nations. Today, the main reminder of our British Empire heritage is our celebration of the Commonwealth Games every four years.