Official Statistics

Retention and closure statistics for all of the colonial administration files

This table provides a snapshot of retention and closure statistics for all of the colonial administration files reviewed for release to The National Archives (TNA).



Data for tranches 1-7 of the release programme was collected in August 2013 and updated in January 2014. Data was collected for tranche 8 in January 2014. A piece is the TNA term for a file. FCO files typically contain around 100 pages, but this can vary quite widely.

Each file contains a set of documents which are often one or two pages long but sometimes longer.

Information can only be withheld from release for a specified period and must be re-reviewed for release at a later date. Sometimes only words, sentences or paragraphs in a document are withheld (they are blocked or ‘redacted’) and sometimes whole documents. Less frequently entire files are withheld, again for a specified period.

During the colonial administration files release programme, the FCO released the overwhelming majority of information in the files. The final column in the table above shows that over 18,000 pieces, or 93% of the total, were released in their entirety without any information withheld.

In most cases where we have withheld information from colonial administration files under legal exemptions, we have withheld individual documents or we have redacted text within those documents. The columns headed ‘Documents with closures (full or partial)’ and ‘Documents with retentions (full or partial)’ give the number of documents where we have redacted some of the text (and released the rest of the documents) or where we have withheld whole documents.

The number of files withheld in their entirety for a specified period are shown in the columns ‘Closed whole pieces’ and ‘Retained whole pieces’. They account for a small proportion of the total number of colonial administration files (1.5%).

Files covering the territory of Sarawak have been included in the statistics for Brunei. The majority of closures and retentions are for Sarawak files.