Nature and Scope

“An important resource enabling students and scholars everywhere to trace in detail the rise of the East India Company, which laid the foundations of the British Raj in India.”

Prof. H. V. Bowen, Swansea University


The nature and organisation of the material in East India Company varies according to its class. There follows a summary of what users can expect to find in each class of documents.

For more detailed descriptions of the classes available in this resource, please see Margaret Makepeace’s introductory essay.

For full instructions on how to navigate and use East India Company, please see our user’s guide.


Module 1: Trade, Governance and Empire, 1600-1947

Module 2: Factory Records for South Asia and South-East Asia

Module 3: Factory Records for China, Japan and the Middle East

Module 4: Correspondence: Early Voyages, Formation and Conflict



Module 1: Trade, Governance and Empire, 1600-1947

This module consists of the complete IOR classes A, B, C, and D and their associated Z-class indexes, comprising 932 volumes:
  • IOR/A: The East India Company’s charters, statutes and treaties
  • IOR/B: The minutes of the meetings of the Courts of Directors and Proprietors
  • IOR/C: The minutes and memoranda of the Council of India
  • IOR/D: The minutes and memoranda of the general committees and offices of the East India Company
  • IOR/Z: Indexes to selected documents in classes B and D


Document types include:Copy of Elizabeth I's letters patent establishing the East India Company.

  • Minutes of council meetings (Court of Directors, Court of Proprietors and Council of India)
  • Memoranda and papers laid before councils
  • Council resolutions
  • Proceedings of revenue boards
  • Charters
  • Text of legislation
  • Printed books
  • Correspondence
  • Lists of administrative, military and ecclesiastical personnel


File classes:


(111 volumes, 1600-1947)

These manuscript charters, commissions of voyages, letters patent, indentures, letters of marque and other legal documents are mostly catalogued individually or in small bound bundles.



(27 volumes, 1720-1851)

This sub-series consists of larger, bound volumes, often printed, which deal with relations with a British Government which undertook ever-increasing scrutiny of the Company’s commercial and administrative activities as the eighteenth century turned into the nineteenth.

The volumes include an assortment of papers, most often to do with the periodic renewal of the Company’s charters and privileges, such as correspondence between Government and Company representatives, petitions, transcripts of evidence taken by Parliamentary committees, and statutes relating to the Company.



(275 volumes, 1599-1858)

These manuscript volumes are mainly minutes of meetings of the Court of Directors of the Company, with a minority of volumes relating instead to dissents to the Court, and others to the Court of Proprietors (which appointed the directors). The series ends with the transfer of authority from the Company to the Crown in 1858.

The B-class volumes are in date order by meeting; for ease of navigation we have subdivided each volume by month, quarter or year, as most appropriate.

Most B-class volumes have indexes to their content within them, but some do not. Some of these latter volumes are covered by a Z-class index or indexes (see below). All indexed volumes can be seen in conjunction with their indexes in our split-screen image-viewer.



(145 volumes, 1858-1947)

This series consists mainly of minutes of meetings of the Council of India, which succeeded the courts of the East India Company as the central executive authority for British India. Like the courts, it met in London. It ceased to exist in 1937, when India gained greater self-government under the Government of India Act 1935. The volumes from after this date are of minutes of meetings of the Secretary of State for India’s advisers, and volumes of miscellaneous correspondence. As in the B class, there are also volumes of dissents.

Minute volumes have been subdivided by month, quarter or year, as most appropriate. Many of the later volumes in this series are printed or in typescript and some have indexes, which can be seen in conjunction with the related content in our split-screen image-viewer.



(256 volumes, 1700-1858)

The majority of these records were produced by, or are closely associated with, the Committee of Correspondence, the most important of the standing committees of the Company appointed by the Court of Directors. They include minutes of the meetings of the Committee, its reports and resolutions, and its memoranda.

The D class also includes many volumes of ‘auditor’s references’, comprising assorted papers mostly relating to the financial claims of Company employees. There are also a few miscellaneous volumes of papers on topics such as ecclesiastical appointments and the legal proceedings against governor-general Warren Hastings.

Where these volumes are indexed, content and index pages can be viewed simultaneously in the split-screen image-viewer. Some volumes are indexed in Z-class indexes (see below).

Please note that volumes IOR/D/64-65 and 68-71 have been mislaid and so are not available in this resource.



(119 volumes, 1702-1858)

This series consists solely of volumes of indexes which relate to volumes in the B and D classes.

These index volumes have not been put together to a consistent pattern and can be difficult to navigate; some Z-class indexes relate to only one content volume whilst others relate to multiple content volumes.

In addition to this, some ‘Z’s refer to copies of minutes which have been lost – i.e. they are indexes to minutes of which the British Library holds a different (textually identical but differently formatted) copy to the copy they actually refer to.

To make navigation as easy as possible for users, we have cross-referenced each ‘Z’ index with the volume(s) it refers to and enabled users to look at content and index simultaneously through our split-screen image-viewer.


Highlights of Module 1 include:



Modules 2 and 3: Factory Records

The Factory Records consist of papers sent to London from the East India Company's 'factories', or trading posts, across Asia and parts of Africa, including letters sent and received, official trading diaries, accounts of the Company's embassies to rulers, proceedings of provincial councils and revenue boards, military documents and account books.

For a detailed guide to the Factory Records, see Margaret Makepeace and Antonia Moon's essay.



Module 2: Factory Records for South Asia and South-East Asia

This consists of 919 volumes from 34 factories or factory groups. 

Date range:


File classes:

IOR/G, Factory Records, 1613-1830

These relate to factories established in India and the East Indies during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The remainder of this class, dealing with factories elsewhere, principally in China and Japan, is covered in Module 3.

Document types include:

  • Correspondence
  • Consultations (public and military)
  • Ledgers
  • Proceedings of governors' councils and courts
  • Trading journals
  • Wills

IOR/L/PS, Political and Secret Department records

Included in this module are some of IOR/L/PS/9: Political and Secret Department Records: Correspondence relating to areas outside India, 1781-1911.

The Secret Department was reserved for highly sensitive correspondence involving war, peace and diplomacy, whereas the Political Department dealt with the everyday matters involving relations with the Indian states and foreign governments. This distinction was blurred after 1875, with records from both departments filed together in the same volumes.

Document types include:

  • Correspondence
  • Minutes

Highlights of Module 2 include:

Please note that the following volumes have been mislaid or have been deemed by the British Library curators to be too fragile to scan, and so are not available in this resource: IOR/G/1/2A-C, IOR/G/21/67, IOR/G/21/69, IOR/G/35/28, IOR/G/35/49, IOR/G/35/55, IOR/G/35/61, IOR/G/36/35, IOR/L/PS/9/219.


Module 3: Factory Records for China, Japan and the Middle East

This consists of 641 volumes from 7 factories or factory groups.

Date range:


File classes:

IOR/G, Factory Records, 1608-1858

These are the IOR/G volumes relating to factories in east Asia, the Middle East and Africa, from the early seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century.

Document types include:

  • Correspondence
  • Consultations (public and military)
  • Ledgers
  • Proceedings of governors' councils and courts
  • Trading journals
  • Wills

IOR/R, India Office records transferred later through official channels

Module 3 also includes the complete run of volumes from IOR/R/19, Records of East India Company and India Office Agencies in Egypt (1832-1870).

The volumes in this class consist mostly of correspondence and accounts.

Highlights of Module 3 include:


Module 4: Correspondence: Early Voyages, Formation and Conflict 

This Module consists of 793 volumes, comprising original, draft and abstracted correspondence from IOR Class E plus their associated H- and Z-class indexes, and the Z-class indexes for the Madras and Bombay Presidencies.

It includes correspondence between the East India Company and the Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India, the Company’s various settlements and Presidencies throughout Asia, government departments, and European houses of agency. The records offer a fascinating insight into the early voyages of the Company and its shifting interests from trade to the gaining of territorial power, and are interspersed with a number of petitions, reports (including quarterly 'Narratives of Proceedings' produced by regional administrations), financial accounts, inventories and other documents.

Date Range:


File Classes:

IOR/E, East India Company General Correspondence, 1600-1858

This class of documents comprises correspondence relating to a wide range of subjects, regions, and the various administrative units of the East India Company. Series E is further divided into sub-series of original incoming and draft outgoing correspondence, arranged chronologically and/or geographically. The sub-series included in Module 4 are as follows:

IOR/E/2: Correspondence with the Board of Control, 1784-1858. IOR/E/2 comprises correspondence between the East India Company’s Court of Directors and the Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India (generally shortened to the ‘India Board’ or ‘Board of Control’), the government body appointed to oversee the operations of the East India Company.

IOR E/3: Correspondence with the East, 1602-1753. IOR/E/3 comprises correspondence between the East India Company’s London offices and its overseas agents, factories, and presidencies. The correspondence covers both original letters received from ‘The East’ and copies of outgoing correspondence from London. The geographical scope of this sub-series is broad, covering the entire range of regions in which the Company maintained a presence.

IOR E/4: Correspondence with India, 1703-1858. The largest of the IOR/E sub-series, comprising original, draft, and summarised correspondence between the East India Company’s Court of Directors and its various administrations. E/4 documents featured in Module 4 concern the governance of India and Bengal; correspondence from 1785 onwards is arranged by administrative department.

IOR/H: Home Miscellaneous Series, c.1600-1900

This series comprises records collected by the India Office which did not fit within the regular archive series. The two Catalogues of Original Correspondence at H/711 and H/712 act as indexes to IOR sub-series E/3 (Correspondence with the East, 1602-1753).

IOR/Z/E: Indexes to minutes of the East India Company’s correspondence with India

These indexes cover selected volumes from the E series, many of which do not have ‘internal’ indexes of their own.


Highlights of Module 4 include:

  •  Letters of William Adams (the first Englishman known to have visited Japan), Richard Cocks, and other Company agents in Japan (IOR/E/3/1/2, IOR/E/3/2/1, IOR/E/3/3, IOR/E/3/4/2, IOR/E/3/5/2)
  •  Copies of letters from King Charles II of England (IOR/E/3/86)
  •  An ‘Account, from his journal, of James Bearblock's voyage from Assada to Bantam in the Supply’ (IOR/E/3/22)
  •  Documents relating to pirates, including William Kidd (IOR/E/3/52 and IOR/E/3/53)
  •  Correspondence between the Board of Control and the East India Company's Board of Directors, concerning government oversight of the Company (IOR/E/2/1 to IOR/E/2/57)
  •  Correspondence between the East India Company's Board of Directors and Governors-General of India (Throughout sub-series IOR/E/4)

Please note that some letterbooks in the E/3 sub-series (IOR/E/3/71 to IOR/E/3/83) have not been digitised, as they are duplicates.


For a very detailed guide to all of the IOR classes, including those available in this resource, please see Martin Moir’s book A General Guide to the India Office Records, available as a PDF here.