About this project

Archival Justice

This is an ongoing project managed by Dr. Audra A. Diptée.

Its goal is to gradually release previously secret colonial documents that were taken from the Caribbean under the British policy known as Operation Legacy.

Colonial officials were given very specific instructions to remove documents that would “embarass” the British government.

Here are a few of the more colourful remarks from the documents:

Jamaica (1962)

“Sift all [records] to ensure that none are left which should NOT be seen by the government of an independent Jamaica.” [1962]

Trinidad (1961)

“It is an excellent idea to make an early start on sifting papers … it would perhaps be a little unfortunate to celebrate Independence Day large with smoke.

Belize (1962)

[W]e have already began to weed [the files] out and to destroy them by fire.  Indeed, the smoke from small bonfires will fill the air for a few weeks to come and at subsequent intervals.” [1962]

What was Operation Legacy?

Operation Legacy was a covert and an elaborate British policy implemented in at least 37 former British colonies (1950s – 1970s).  Its objective was to secretly destroy select colonial documents and to clandestinely remove others back to Britain.

This secret policy became public knowledge because a court case brought against the British government for human rights violations committed during colonialism.

To learn more about the case, see the short (5 minute) animated TEDEd video that was written by Dr. Audra Diptée.

Audra A. Diptée, Ph.D.

Critical Histories

Audra A. Diptée is a historian, author, and academic.  She specializes in the history of colonialism and imperialism in the Caribbean and Africa.  Her more recent work explores the idea of critical applied history.

She has held research and writing fellowships at the Bellagio Center in Italy (The Rockefeller Foundation)  and Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition.  She has also been awarded the post of Professeure Invitée at the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3 (l’IHEAL). 

This project received support from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.