Administrative / biographical background: The Colonial Office Photographic Collection is formed from a core of the old Colonial Office collection, which began in 1869 when the Colonial Secretary asked governors to arrange for the taking of photographs of 'noteworthy buildings and scenery...together with individuals of various races peculiar to the colony'.

The photographs were to be sent to the Colonial Office. The practice developed and over the next 100 years a collection grew consisting of a varied and eclectic set of images from all the colonies. Some earlier images, including drawings and sketches, were added to the collection.

In 1966, the Colonial Office merged with the Commonwealth Relations Office (CRO) to become the Commonwealth Office, and in 1968 with the Foreign Office to become the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Collection was widened to include miscellaneous photographs from Commonwealth and Foreign sources - but the core of the collection remains the colonial element. Most photographs relating to India, Pakistan and Burma were separated out and now form part of the India Office collection, and are not part of this collection.