Windrush scandal: a historian on why destroying archives is never a good idea

Reblogged from the Imperial and Global Forum:

Imperial & Global Forum

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Sanwal Deen/Unsplash

Dora Vargha
University of Exeter

Archival practices rarely make headlines. Databases are sexy, archives less so – at least for most people. Whenever we do read about archives, it’s almost exclusively in the context of something disappearing. Apparently, we never know a good thing until it’s gone.

Most recently, it transpired that the Home Office apparently destroyed Windrush landing cards eight years ago. These, it now seems, were crucial documents in establishing the legal status of Caribbean-born residents who arrived in the 1950s and 1960s. The question of exactly who is to take the blame for this action remains under debate.

This is not the first time the government has had to admit to this kind of practice. A few months ago the Foreign Office admitted to its role in key documents “disappearing” from the National Archives. Among them were papers on the colonial administration of…

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1 thought on “Windrush scandal: a historian on why destroying archives is never a good idea”

  1. “destroying archives is never a good idea” sounds a bit of a clickbait. Even if the article makes it less radical, it states that archives are always the result of a selection. It is as much essential to keep as it is to destroy some documents to be able to safeguard archives for future historians. The volume of documentation produced, especially (and ironically) since the advent of the personal computer (and personal printer) make it often impossible to store for organisations. A professional archivist could select wisely among documents to be kept, sampled or destroyed with the help of historians and other stakeholders of archives.

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