The file is synonymous with British bureaucracy but it had a long gestation from at least the 16th century. It emerged slowly from the chrysalis of the docket during the 19th century, differentially in the various departments of state and became a fixity following reforms in the aftermath of the First World War. Even then the system of recording information in government was not uniform and was subject to the exigencies of the financial crisis and the commitment of officials. Although India and the rest of the Empire had separate administration, there was very little attempt to manage and preserve information effectively. Most initiatives met only with partial success and were often resented by junior officials. Registries in keeping with long-held commitment to paucity in government spending were and are poorly staffed and resourced. This article traces the evolution of the file until its demise in the digital age.