Dr Mandy Banton

Contact details

Dr Mandy Banton
Position/Fellowship type:
Senior Research Fellow
Fellowship term:
01-Sep-2009 to 30-Sep-2018
Institute of Commonwealth Studies
020 7862 8844
Email address:

Research Summary and Profile

Research interests:
Colonies & Colonization, emigration & immigration, Contemporary History, Modern History
Africa, Caribbean, England, United Kingdom
Summary of research interests and expertise:


Dr Banton is former Principal Records Specialist (Diplomatic and Colonial) at The National Archives of the UK (TNA), and an historian with a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. She was elected a fellow of the Royal Historical Society in February 2017.

Dr Banton is an expert on the records of the British Colonial Office and author of the standard research guide, Administering the Empire, 1801-1968; A Guide to the Records of the Colonial Office in The National Archives of the UK, a revised edition of which was commissioned by the Institute of Historical Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London, and published in 2015. This new edition, as well as providing a general update, highlights the so-called ‘migrated archives’ removed from 37 UK dependencies at independence, concealed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) until 2011, and released to The National Archives in 2012/13. Dr Banton’s recent research, publications and speaking engagements have focused on policy and practice with respect to such removals, and the continuing disagreements and inconclusive discussions regarding the legal status and appropriate disposal of the documentation between TNA and the FCO over many decades. She is contributing to a global debate in her practical work with the International Records Management Trust, the Kenya National Archives and other archivists, historians and lawyers to explore means of securing the return of documentation to the independent successor states, or the provision by the UK Government of free digital copies. She is author of a position paper on the subject adopted by the Association of Commonwealth Archivists and Records Managers in 2017, and has been appointed to the Expert Group on Shared Archival Heritage set up by the International Council on Archives in 2016.

More generally Dr Banton has research interests in the administrative history of the Colonial Office, record-keeping there and within the former colonial governments, and the Office’s supervision of the developing legal regulation of ‘free’ labour after the 19th century abolition of slavery in the British Empire.


Project summary relevant to Fellowship:

Dr Banton has presented her work on migrated archives to the Institute conference ‘The Secret Archive: What is the significance of FCO’s “Migrated Archives” and “Special Collections”?’ (May 2014), organised with Dr Susan Williams, also a senior research fellow; to the Institute workshop ‘The Hidden History of Decolonization: What do the “migrated archives” reveal about British withdrawal from Empire?’ (February 2015); to annual conferences of SCOLMA: the UK Libraries and Archives Group on Africa (July 2013) and the Society for Caribbean Studies (July 2014); to conferences at the University of East Anglia (May 2013) and the University of Bristol (July 2013); and most recently to the seminar series ‘Archives and Society’ at the Institute of Historical Research (March 2016), and the launch at Liverpool University in March 2017 of the book Displaced Archives (James Lowry, ed., Routledge, 2017) in which she has a chapter. In June 2015 Dr Banton was a member of a committee convened at Leiden University to examine a PhD thesis proposing an archival model for work on the British migrated archives and a parallel Dutch collection. She has been consulted and interviewed by journalists from The Guardian, VICE News, Radiolab and other media.

Dr Banton’s other contributions to the life of the Institute include the organisation of a conference on Freedom of Information in the Commonwealth (with Dr Susan Williams) which led to publication in December 2015 of a special issue of The Round Table, ‘Freedom of Information in the Commonwealth’, edited by them with Professor Elizabeth Shepherd of University College London, and launched by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative in New Delhi (December 2015) and at Senate House, London (January 2016). The most recent of a number of conferences and other events organised with Dr Williams, and in collaboration with the United Nations Association Westminster, was the international conference ‘”Sowing the Whirlwind”: nuclear politics and the historical record’ (July 2015).

Dr Banton is a member of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and Senate House Library advisory board. During the course of her fellowship she has also served on a number of committees and advisory bodies of external organisations, most recently the Advisory Council of the Institute of Latin American Studies, also part of the School of Advanced Study, (2012-15) and the Advisory Board of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership project at University College London (2013-15).

Publication Details

Related publications/articles:

Date Details
01-Jul-2018 Precious artefacts versus ‘dusty files’


 Opinion piece for The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs.  Forthcoming.

01-Jul-2017 Review of The History Thieves: Secrets, Lies and the Shaping of a Modern Nation by Ian Cobain


 Review published in The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs, Issue 3, 2017

20-Jun-2017 Review of The History Thieves: Secrets, Lies and the Shaping of a Modern Nation by Ian Cobain


Archives and Manuscripts, Vol. 45, issue 2

01-Mar-2017 Displaced Archives in The National Archives of the United Kingdom


in James Lowry (ed.) Displaced Archives (Routledge, 2017)

01-Dec-2015 Freedom of Information and the Commonwealth


 Special issue of The Round Table: the Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs edited by Mandy Banton, Susan Williams and Elizabeth Shepherd (December 2015).

31-Jul-2015 Administering the Empire, 1801-1968: A Guide to the Records of the Colonial Office in The National Archives of the UK


Revised edition

01-Nov-2014 'Record-keeping for good governance and accountability in the Colonial Office: an historical sketch',

Essay for festschrift for Dr Anne Thurston, Director of the International Records Management Trust.

01-Oct-2014 The Records of Empire


 in the Black history month supplement of New African, October 2014

01-Apr-2014 Review of Macaulay and Son: Architects of Imperial Britain by Catherine Hall


In Family and Community History, volume 17/1, April 2014

01-Mar-2014 'Obscured if not hidden: records relating to Africa in the National Archives of the UK (TNA)


In African Research and Documentation, No. 123, 2013

01-Dec-2013 ‘Lost’ and ‘Found’: The concealment and release of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office ‘migrated archives’

Journal articles

Comma: International Journal on Archives.

01-Jun-2012 ‘Destroy? ‘Migrate’? Conceal? British Strategies for the Disposal of Sensitive Records of Colonial Administrations at Independence’

Journal articles

The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History,
Volume 40, Issue 2, pp. 321-335

01-Oct-2011 review of The Creolisation of London Kinship: Mixed African-Caribbean and White British Extended Families, 1950–2003 by Elaine Bauer. Amsterdam University Press, 2010.


in Family & Community History, Vol. 14/2, October 2011

01-Apr-2011 review of Atlantic Families: Lives and Letters in the Later Eighteenth Century by Sarah M S Pearsall (Oxford University Press, 2008)

in Family and Community History, vol. 14/1, April 2011

01-Jan-2011 Administering the Empire, 1801-1968: a guide to the records of the Colonial Office in The National Archives of the UK

revised and reprinted 2011

01-Nov-2010 review of Untold Histories: Black people in England and Wales during the period of the British slave trade, c. 1660-1807, by Kathleen Chater (Manchester University Press, 2009)

in Family and Community History, vol. 13/2, November 2010

01-May-2010 review of the Oxford Companion to Black British History, edited by David Dabydeen, John Gilmore and Cecily Jones (Oxford University Press, 2007)

in Family and Community History, 13/1, May 2010

01-Mar-2010 The Commonwealth at 60: a note on its history and some UK records

in Newsletter of the Association of Commonwealth Archivists and Records Managers, issue 46, Spring 2010

01-Oct-2009 'Expatriate' or 'Migrated' Archives: the role of the UK Archivist

in Archives [the journal of the British Records Association], vol. xxxiv, no. 121, October 2009

2009 The 'Taint of Slavery': The Colonial Office and the Regulation of Free Labour

in Keith Hamilton and Patrick Salmon (eds), Slavery, Diplomacy and Empire: Britain and the Suppression of the Slave Trade, 1807-1975 (Sussex Academic Press, 2009)

2008 Administering the Empire, 1801-1968: A Guide to the Records of the Colonial Office in The National Archives of the UK

London: Institute of Historical Research (2008, revised and reprinted 2011)

Relevant Events

Related events:

Date Details
04-Jun-2018 'Displaced Archives/Shared Heritage: new approaches to old problems'

 Paper presented to the seminar series organised by SCOLMA (the Library and Archives Group on Africa)

27-Mar-2018 'A culture of secrecy? - the management of records of Britain’s imperial past'

 Paper presented to the conference 'Looted, Lost or Hidden: Archives and Politics', Oslo. The conference was a collaboration between Preus Museum (the National Museum of Photography); The National Archives of Norway; Department of Archives, Library and Information Sciences/Faculty of Social Sciences/OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University, the e-journal www.tidsskriftetarkiv.no and the Publisher ABM-media.


23-Mar-2017 Displaced Archives in the National Archives of the United Kingdom

 Presentation at the launch of Displaced Archives (ed. James Lowry, Routledge, 2017) at the University of Liverpool. 

15-Mar-2016 Displaced Archives

 Contribution to a seminar in the series 'Archives and Society', Institute of Historical Research, with James Lowry, University of Liverpool, and Vincent Hiribarren, Kings College London.

16-Jul-2015 Sowing the Whirlwind’: Nuclear Politics and the Historical Record

 (with Dr Susan Williams and in collaboration with the United Nations Association Westminster Branch) Speakers included Dr. Akiko Mikamo, author of Rising from the Ashes: A True Story of Survival and Forgiveness from Hiroshima; Professor Peter Kuznick, director, Nuclear Studies Institute, American University, Washington DC; Bruce Kent, Vice-President, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; and Joe Lauria, Wall Street Journal. The first four videos from the conference were posted on the SAS website on 3 September 2015, others to follow.

03-Jul-2015 Mau Mau

 Recorded interview to Radiolab (broadcaster on the New York radio station WNYC)

20-Feb-2015 The hidden history of decolonization: What do the ‘migrated archives’ reveal about British withdrawal from Empire?

Paper on the 'migrated archives' presented to workshop held at ICWS

29-Jan-2015 Book launch: Henning Melber, Understanding Namibia

 (with Dr Susan Williams) Book launch: Henning Melber, Understanding Namibia (C. Hurst & Co., 2014)

08-Sep-2014 The United Nations and the End of Empire: Revisiting the Role of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld

Organiser with Dr Susan Williams, ICWS, of a colloquium revisiting themes emerging from a conference held three years earlier on 'Dag Hammarskjold, the UN and the End of Empire'. Speakers were John Y Jones (Voksenasen, Oslo), Henning Melber (Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, Uppsala), and Edward Mortimer (All Souls College, Oxford).

01-Sep-2014 Here’s What the British Government Has Been Hiding from You

 Vice News, 1 September 2014

10-Jul-2014 'Why Join the Commonwealth'

Organiser, with Dr Susan Williams, of a colloquium to address the question 'Why join the Commonwealth'

03-Jul-2014 'Secrecy and Disclosure: FCO 'migrated archives' and 'special collections'

Presentation to the 38th Annual Conference of the Society for Caribbean Studies, University of Glasgow, 2-4 July 2014.

29-May-2014 The Secret Archive: What is the significance of FCO’s ‘Migrated Archives’ and ‘Special Collections’?

Organiser, with Dr Susan Williams, of one-day conference, and presenter of paper 'History concealed; justice denied? - (mis)management of the records of Britain’s colonial dependencies'

28-Feb-2014 Using The National Archives Colonial Records

Presentation to a one-day conference 'Experiences of World War One: strangers, differences and locality' organised by the British Association for Local History in conjunction with the Institute for Commonwealth Studies'.

16-Jul-2013 ‘Migrated archives’: an overview

Presentation to conference 'Connected Histories of Empire', University of Bristol

09-Jul-2013 Obscured if not hidden: records relating to Africa in the National Archives of the UK

Paper presented to the annual conference of SCOLMA (the UK Libraries and Archives Group on Africa)

16-May-2013 The British Colonial Office Archives

Presentation to 2-day 'Utopian Archives Workshop: Past and Futures', University of East Anglia, 16-17 May 2013

14-Jun-2012 ‘Secrecy and Disclosure: Freedom of Information and the Commonwealth’.

Organiser, with Dr Susan Williams

21-Feb-2012 Records relating to the Commonwealth in the UK National Archives

Presentation to the Bristol Commonwealth Society

14-Sep-2011 The Colonial Office and the regulation of labour in the British Empire, 1838-1919

International Conference, 'Governing Empires: Central Administration and the Making of Colonial Policies in the late 19th Century', Instituto de Historia, Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales, Madrid, 14-16 September 2011.

02-Sep-2011 Dag Hammarskjöld, the United Nations, and the End of Empire

Organiser, with Dr Susan Williams and in collaboration with the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and the Westminster branch of the United Nations Association and with the support of the Swedish Ambassador, of a one-day international conference held on 2 September 2001 to mark the 50th anniversary of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld's death.

08-Jul-2010 Sources for Caribbean studies in The National Archives of the UK

paper given at Society for Caribbean Studies Annual Conference, University of Southampton, 7-9 July 2010

26-Mar-2010 Free or unfree? Labour regulation in the 19th century Caribbean

talk as part of a one-day workshop on researching the Caribbean, organised by Dr Gemma Romain, University of Newcastle, and held at The National Archives, 26 March 2010

09-Dec-2009 'Constantly the subject of small struggles': the development of labour legislation in the British Empire during the 19th and 20th centuries

paper given to Institute of Commonwealth Studies Research Seminar, 9 December 2009

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