Why this website

Denmark was a colonial power in the West Indies for almost 250 years. Quite uniquely, a huge number of descriptions, records, letters, and illustrations that provide extraordinary insight into history have been preserved. On the 1st of March 2017, the records became available to the public through this website.
The Danish National Archive’s storerooms.
Photo from the Danish National Archive’s storerooms at Kalvebod Brygge in Copenhagen. Photographer: T. Eskerod.

In 1997, the documents from the period of Danish colonialism in the West Indies were included on UNESCOs World Heritage List and thus recognized as an important part of the world’s cultural heritage. However, for many years, the documents have almost only been used by a small number of specifically interested researchers in Denmark. The Danish National Archives wants everyone to have access to the records – including those with family ties to the colony and regardless if they live in the Caribbean, in Denmark or in the U.S.A.

History must be told

In 2017, it will be 100 years since Denmark sold the three West Indian islands to the U.S.A. This website commemorates the centennial by communicating the original documents and sources as well as the history of the colonial period. This includes interesting stories about famous Danes and islanders, and all the horrific stories about slavery, oppression, barbaric punishments, and a hard life with work, discipline and illness. The stories as well as facts and background information about the colonial period can be found on this website.

Sources available online

The Danish National Archives has scanned and digitized the majority of the records, see the full list of all the record creators and record series here. In this way, they have been preserved for posterity. This was necessary because some of the documents were starting to crumble, among other things because of damage from storage in a tropical environment. At the same time, this gives everyone access to the records without them first having to travel to Copenhagen. All it takes is a computer, access to the internet and patience.  This is how you start searching: Five pieces of advice.


The work was made possible by a grant of DKK 10 million from the A.P. Møller Foundation and a grant of DKK 4.2 million from the Danish Ministry of Culture’s funds for the preservation of Danish heritage abroad. The Danish National Archives’ project “The Danish West-Indies – Sources of history” lasted from 2013 to 2017.