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Anzac Day: The Library will be open as usual on Friday 25 April.

La Trobe Reading Room: The La Trobe Reading Room will close at 3pm on Tuesday 29 April. More information

Anzac Day & La Trobe Reading Room early closure
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British colonial history

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.

If you have joined the Library and are looking for articles on British India or British colonial history in relation to other countries, Periodicals Index Online and JSTOR are eresources containing journal articles from the 18th century to now.

More to explore

When we opened in 1856 the British Empire was approaching its peak with colonies and outposts all over the world and was the dominant global power in the 19th century.
As Victoria was a British colony we started collecting – result, an in-depth collection of British parliamentary papers (cat record link1) and other publications dealing with all aspects of 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 Philip colony and Victoria.
We collected a wide and varied range of materials from other British colonies including New Zealand, British India (canned search1), Canada and the British colonies in Asia, Africa and other parts of the world.
Although much of this material was published by governments there is a great collection of books and journal articles, both academic and popular, on the history of the British Empire (canned search2), found by searching our catalogue.
We have Royal Society publications from around the world such as those from the Royal Society of Victoria (canned search3) and the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (canned search4) that are full of local history, science and culture.
The British Empire has evolved over time but was at its peak during the World War, 1914-1918.  We have a wealth of material on this war, the next World War, 1939-1945, and the restructuring of the empire due to decolonization after 1945.
You can find material dealing with the Imperial Conferences (canned search5) in the 20th century that reshaped the old colonial relationships and saw the emergence of the Commonwealth of Nations (canned search6). Today, the main reminder of our British Empire heritage is our celebration of the Commonwealth Games (canned search7) every four years.