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Digital Sources in Europe for African History

Summary and Keywords

There are copious resources for the study of African history on the internet. They include manuscripts and documentary archives, maps, museum collections, newspapers, printed books, picture collections, and sound and moving images. The websites of European institutions provide a good proportion of this content, reflecting the long, entangled, and troubled histories that connect Europe and Africa, as well as new partnerships with African institutions.

This plethora of digital resources enables both specialized researchers and the public to access information about Africa more quickly and easily, and on a larger scale than ever before. Digitization comes with a strong democratic impulse, and the new technology has been instrumental in making libraries, archives, museums, and art galleries much more open. But all is not smooth sailing, and there are two particular aspects of which researchers should be aware.

The first is that there are still huge collections, or parts of collections, that have not been digitized, and that resources have been—on the whole—most focused on items with visual appeal. The twin brakes of cost and copyright restrain the process, and researchers need to understand how what they can get online relates to what still exists only in hard copy.

The second consideration is that digitized resources can be difficult to find. Information about the riches of the web in this area is very fragmented, and exclusive use of one search engine, however dominant, is clearly not enough. As a counter to this fragmentation, a listing of the major websites for African history in Europe is given in a handy guide for researchers, which covers these resources by format and by region of Africa. The listing also provides websites in two particular areas of interest to historians and to the public: the transatlantic slave trade, and the liberation struggles in southern Africa.

Keywords: digitization, digitized archives, digitized photographs, digital libraries, digitized sources for African history, African history, Europeana, Endangered Archives Program, Gallica, British Library, libraries, archives, museums, catalogs

Approaching Digital Sources for African History1

The process of researching African history has changed out of all recognition in recent years. Source material of all kinds has been digitized and made available on the internet. Yet the process is very far from complete: there is still much more held in boxes on archive shelves than in bits and bytes in digital stores. Much of the digitization that has taken place to date has been concentrated on a limited range of formats. Photographs have often been a first choice for digitization, with the result that there are many rich picture archives on the web relating to Africa; meanwhile, archival documents have not had the same degree of attention and resource devoted to them.

This article provides a guide to European web resources for the history of Africa. The existence of these resources springs from Europe’s historical engagement with Africa, first through the slave trade and colonialism. Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain were all, to a greater or lesser extent, colonial and slaving powers in Africa from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Individuals, companies, and governments in these and other European countries, including Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland, have also long been engaged with the continent through, for example, trading relationships, solidarity with independence struggles, development aid work, and postcolonial diplomatic and economic relationships.

These long, entangled histories of engagement with Africa have produced very extensive and diverse library, archive, and museum collections. Many European countries now also have long-standing and active centers of scholarship on Africa, which in their turn are generating archival material. This article surveys this landscape, taking into account archives of material held in Europe and made available online (wherever the home of the web platform), as well as archives of material housed in Africa and made available through partnership with European bodies (or sometimes individuals in Europe). It should be read together with the following articles from the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History: Digital Sources for the History of the Horn of Africa; Internet and Social Media as Historical Sources; and West African Manuscripts in Arabic and African Languages and Digital Preservation.

While the focus here is on digitized primary unpublished sources, the article also indicates the wealth of older printed books now available on an open-access basis, as well as pointing to some resources and reference sources for newer and current scholarship. The major online bibliographic sources of reference for African Studies in Europe are also listed.

The article concentrates on what is already available at the time of writing (2018) and also signals some resources of special interest which are in development. It focuses on open-access material, which is available to anyone with an internet connection, but indicates selected significant items that are behind a paywall.

This article thus gives a solid grounding in digital sources for African history, listing both the most important and the more “niche” sites that are often less well-known, as well as giving pointers on how to find further resources in this field. It cannot, however, claim to be comprehensive, given the number of European countries—currently twenty-eight member states in the EU alone—and the difficulties of locating and listing an ever-expanding number of relevant websites. Inevitably, the author’s own UK expertise and linguistic specialisms—English, French, and German—have informed her selections. The article also focuses on Africa south of the Sahara, although North Africa is not excluded.

Digital Sources for African History in Europe—The Current State of Play

Every field of knowledge has been profoundly affected by the advent of digital technology. The arts and humanities have in some respects been slower to move than the medical, natural, and social sciences, but they too have seen huge changes since the mid-1990s, and it is now far easier to find and use material than it has ever been in the past.2

With respect to historical sources, all kinds of material—documents, manuscripts, photographs, illustrations, printed books, maps, and museum objects—have been digitized and made freely available on the internet. As the technology develops, digitization becomes easier and quicker, and thus cheaper. For example, it is now possible to digitize entire books on a scanner that automatically turns the pages rather than requiring a human to do this task. Digitization often includes the application of optical character recognition software (OCR), radically increasing the searchability of digitized objects: OCR is currently highly efficient (although not perfect) for printed books. While handwritten text recognition (HTR)-the equivalent for manuscripts-has not reached this stage, it is developing rapidly.

These and other developments have changed not only the availability of digitized historical source material, which historians are increasingly noting and making use of, but also the ability of these sources to answer different kinds of questions.3 For example, the vastly increased searchability of digitized newspapers through OCR is facilitating quantitative research approaches—such as the mapping of meetings held by black abolitionists in 19th-century Britain4—while the Livingstone Online project has, through the use of spectral imaging technology, made visible multiple and illegible versions of some of the manuscripts of the missionary David Livingstone.

At the same time, public participation in scholarship is increasing, and crowdsourcing has been particularly effective in instances such as contributing cartographic or photographic data and fundraising.5 A wide range of web resources are created by individuals outside what might be called the academy: see, for example, the Nigerian Nostalgia project, which facilitates upload of historical images from Nigeria and across the diaspora.

Maja Kominko makes the argument for democracy through digitized records when she writes that “access to archival records has been increasingly recognised as a civic right. . . . This right should not be limited to citizens of western countries, and digitization gives an unparalleled opportunity to allow fully democratic open access.”6 The historian Enrique Martino, creator of, goes further in declaring a Derridean challenge to archival hierarchies: digitized archives have the potential “to circulate in democratic digital spaces,” becoming “productive of new audiences and destructive of neo-colonial writing and research practices.”7

This widening of the audience—potential and actual—for archival, library, and museum resources is a development explicitly acknowledged in the sector. Europeana, the European digital library, describes its purpose as enabling “anyone anywhere [to] explore and learn from” its collections, so that “you can find, use and share them: for research, for learning, for creating new things.”8 Europeana’s mission is linked to very broad societal aims: “free, democratic access to cultural heritage must be guaranteed for everyone so that the opportunities that go hand in hand with digitization can be used for the development of our society.”9 In the United Kingdom, the Wellcome Collection declares its intention to “design and build a free and unrestricted digital space where more people than ever can engage, be inspired and explore the connections between science, medicine, life and art.”10

As this might suggest, the current information revolution has fundamentally changed practices and policies within archives, libraries, and museums. Gone are the days when historical research was universally a matter of visiting archives and libraries, burrowing through hard copy catalogs and card indexes, and consulting material onsite. Archivists might not want to admit it, but it was supposed to be difficult: hard labor would bring rewards. In the early 21st century, by contrast, archive and library professionals in Europe largely see their role as making their collections as widely available as possible. Imaginative strategies are needed to alert the public to what is held, and managing or enabling digitization projects has become important for career development.11

This emphasis on a wide audience has had an influence on selection policies, as libraries and archives, large and small, have made the digitization of visually interesting objects—often photographs—a first priority in their digital strategies.12 Photographs of museum objects form another large component of the digital resources available for African history. In addition to selection for visual appeal, this digitization has developed naturally from preexisting museum practices, since in the predigital age, a photograph (or even a sketch) of an object was usually provided as part of a catalog record in order to be able to identify each unique object.

Documentary and manuscript sources, however, have not been so extensively digitized, although there are a few notable exceptions, particularly the material hosted by the Endangered Archives Programme (EAP), which, in response to applications from local archives and local and international grant holders, has funded the digitization of copious collections from across Africa.13 Documentary sources are often less visually appealing, may be more likely to have narrow user groups, and generally require a large investment of time and resources: it may take several hundred photographs to digitize one book or manuscript in contrast to a very limited number for a historical photograph or museum object.

Digital Sources in Europe for African HistoryClick to view larger

Figure 1. Iluminations from “Gädlä qeddus Giyorgis” (Life of Saint George), 17th or 18th century, from the Monastic Archives of Däbrä Abbay (Shire region, Tigray Province, Ethiopia). Digitized under the Endangered Archives Programme. British Library, EAP704/1/43.

For Western cultural institutions, digitizing historical source material has proved in some cases to be a good way of connecting with African audiences.14 As access to the internet grows in Africa, more and more people become able to access a huge range of digital heritage content. This widening of access is illustrated, for example, by the release on the web of the Guinean Syliphone music recordings by the Endangered Archives Programme in 2016, which had thirty thousand page views in March 2016.15

The fact that the new possibilities offered by digitization allow archivists and curators to provide much wider access to their collections has had an impact on debates over cultural heritage and demands for the repatriation of African items. It is now possible to make manuscripts and other items digitally available even while they remain housed in Western institutions and even to “digitally reunify” scattered collections, as well returning sound recordings (transferred to digital media) to their place of origin.

Whether open-access digitization can ever be an adequate response to calls for repatriation is contested: such strategies have been criticized as a poor alternative to the return of physical objects. Whether cultural heritage should be digitized also remains a matter of some debate in Africa.16 The range of responses to the new technology is nevertheless wide, with African commentators and archives professionals also variously recognizing—and acting on—the potential contribution of digital material to openness and democratic debate and the ability of digitization to preserve endangered material.

Obstacles to Digitization

Overall, the digitized archives for African history considered here can be described as rich and extensive in some areas, but quite thin and patchy in others. Such archives are very fragmented, and there is no comprehensive aggregator or search tool (the best such resources are described in more detail in Tips for Research and Searching.

Why are digital archives for African history on the internet not more comprehensive?17 The short answer, as far as archives in Europe are concerned, is two factors: cost and copyright. On the one hand, digitizing material and making it available is expensive. It is a complex process involving selection of material; checks on its fragility and copyright status; decision making on, for example, how to photograph nonstandard items and whether to carry out OCR so that the material may be searched by keyword; control and generation of metadata (catalog records); scanning or photographing large numbers of items; and quality checking. The images must then be uploaded to a digital platform that provides users with a means of searching and viewing them, and the long-term preservation of these digital images must be assured through providing secure digital storage and the periodic migration of data.

Digitization projects, then, particularly large-scale ones built to last, are expensive. A further set of restrictions is provided by copyright law. This area is extremely complex, but one key fact is that published written works are in copyright under EU law for seventy years from the date of death of the author. This law has meant that older books have been digitized en masse because rights checking for individual items is not necessary in these cases, but more modern works usually remain unavailable online. In the case of the United Kingdom, copyright in archives and manuscripts is even more tricky: all such works not published before 1989 remain in copyright until 2039, regardless of date of origin.

Approaches to this thorny subject—in addition to bulk digitization of older works—include rights checking; agreements with publishers; the implementation of EU rules relating to “orphan works” (where the copyright holder cannot be located); and the development of take-down policies in case of accidental breach of copyright.18 Nevertheless, and despite the advent of the open-access movement, copyright rules play a major role in limiting the number of freely available works on European websites.

A further set of restrictions comes with data protection legislation, which prevents the publication of details relating to individuals in records of less than one hundred years old—so, for example, hospital records containing patient details from the period between the two world wars could not currently go online.

If It’s So Difficult, How Has Anything Been Digitized?

In outline, the bulk of open-access heritage digital material on the web has been produced by public bodies—libraries, archives, museums—which have both significant resources in terms of political leverage and access to finance, as well as a duty or mission to make their holdings available. Private funders also play a significant role, while university research projects and smaller non-governmental bodies are also involved in creating digitized resources, often in the context of particular research projects or significant moments in public history. Additionally, commercial companies looking to create packages for sale to libraries are significant players, particularly for manuscript and archive digitization.

With respect to institutions, very extensive resources have been produced at the national and European levels. The most important website in this respect is Europeana, a digital archive, library, museum, and art gallery that contains rich collections of relevance to African history. Europeana, which developed from the European Library (a pan-European library catalog), went live in 2008 after a 2005 call for more funding from six European heads of state. “The heritage of European libraries is unequaled in richness and diversity,” they wrote. “But if it is not digitalized and made accessible online, this heritage could, tomorrow, not fill its just place in the future geography of knowledge.”19 Europeana is thus formally backed and funded by the European Commission and aggregates content from across the continent: at the time of writing (2018), the site included content from over 170 contributors—national aggregators, pan-European or thematic aggregators, and individual cultural heritage institutions.20

This huge partnership project demonstrates both the possibilities and limits of cross-European cooperation by heritage institutions. With regard to the latter, Europeana by no means includes all European digitized heritage content: barriers to upload include lack of resources and funding, incompatible metadata (catalog information), and rights restrictions. Many individual European countries have their own national aggregators, some of which give access to significant resources on and from Africa and may be more comprehensive, and perhaps easier to navigate, than Europeana. At the time of writing, for example, the German Digital Library held over nine million records with digital objects, but only 1.3 million of these were in Europeana.21 Conversely, Europeana provides a platform for many records unavailable elsewhere.

There are fully established national aggregators in both France (Gallica; Moteur Collections on and Germany (German Digital Library). The UK’s Culture Grid, however, which focuses on museum collections, is no longer adding content.22 National aggregators with African content also include Kulturpool (Austria); Finna (Finland); Cultura Italia; Hispana (Spain); and Kringla (Sweden).

Across Europe, heritage institutions large and small, whether or not they contribute to Europeana, are the leaders in providing digitized material free online, some of it financed from core funding and much from funds raised for this purpose. Partnership working is common, whether with other institutions or with stakeholders in the country of origin of the resources.

A small number of private funders, NGOs, and independent or semi-independent research and other institutions also play a significant role. For example, the Endangered Archives Programme is funded by Arcadia, and Fundação Mário Soares, a Portuguese presidential foundation, has funded the digitization of several major collections relating to former Portuguese colonies in Africa. Some of the most interesting websites, like the Legacies of British Slave-ownership based at University College London, arise from academic research projects that have received government funding, while significant moments in public history in Europe—specifically, the anti-apartheid struggle in southern Africa, and the bicentenary of the abolition of the British transatlantic slave trade in 2007—have generated notable web content. Last, but by no means least, extensive manuscript and archival collections held in Europe have been digitized for teaching and research by US commercial providers, including Adam Matthew, Gale Cengage and Readex, and audiovisual content by Alexander Street. These resources are usually acquired through subscription or purchase by academic libraries, and in some cases are also available free, or at reduced cost, to African institutions.

Tips for Research and Searching

This section looks at strategies and key online tools for finding resources for African history, whether that research involves locating digitized primary sources, library resources (whether or not digital, and whether or not behind a paywall), other bibliographies, and non-digital archives. The job of the historian continues to be a matter of chasing down a variety of online and offline sources, and in this hybrid world web-based reference tools are key.

As noted in “Obstacles to Digitization,” digital sources offered by European institutions are very fragmented, and there is no comprehensive portal, search engine, or directory—although Europeana is, of course, an essential starting point. Much can be found through the major search engines, although Google, for all its advantages, will not pick up everything relevant. In addition to the lists given here, there are existing websites that offer important listings and databases. For example, the Guide to Africa on the Internet, provided by the Nordic Africa Institute, has a good selection of historical resources and links to African websites. For Francophone material, the Institut des Mondes africains offers listings, while it is also worth noting the Afrique francophone directory provided by Columbia University, New York.

In terms of locating secondary publications for African history, a number of European institutions offer key tools. These include:

In addition, WorldCat (based in the United States) aggregates catalog records from libraries across the world.

For journals, see the List of African Studies Journals on Wikipedia, put together by members of ELIAS (the European Librarians in African Studies network).

Leiden and the Nordic Africa Institute both offer web dossiers on varied subjects of study, which include some historical themes. Leiden is particularly strong in the bibliographic resources it supports, which include the AfricaBib collection of bibliographies as well as African Studies Abstracts Online. The NAI offers Studying Africa: A Guide to the Sources, which includes some historical material.

With the rise of the open-access movement, more and more current publications are becoming available free online. In addition to scholarly articles, this applies in particular to reports and other publications of research agencies and NGOs. These collections are worth being aware of, even if they are weighted more toward contemporary than historical studies. Large-scale resources in this category include Bibliothèques électroniques en partenariat (BEEP), OpenDocs: Sharing Global Knowledge for Global Change, and Eldis. It is also worth noting that some national and many university libraries include PhD dissertations in their open repositories: to access these items from the British Library, for example, go to Ethos. The International African Institute, based at SOAS, University of London, also hosts a directory of African Digital Research Repositories.

Web tools to find original material held in physical archives are relatively well developed. Archives Portal Europe aims to provide an overview of European archives by publishing finding aids and linking these to digitized material where possible. As of December 2017, it held information on almost seven thousand archival institutions in over thirty European countries and was providing access to over 260 million digital records.23

In the United Kingdom, the catalog of the National Archives enables archival holdings throughout the country to be located, while Archives Hub and Mundus (the latter for missionary records) also aggregate data from a wide range of archives. The finding aids of the French National Overseas Archives are online, and the main catalog of the French National Archives is here. Argus, the catalog of the Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archives), offers online finding aids.24

As the introduction to Archives Portal Europe rather endearingly states, “People get lost on our portal sometimes, but it is not their fault.”25 Searching finding aids to archival collections involves particular challenges, as many series of correspondence are not cataloged by subject and are thus not searchable by keyword. A series of letters to London from the governor of a particular colony held at the UK National Archives, for example, may simply be cataloged by name of colony, “despatches” (this means governor’s despatches), and the date range. Correspondence covering many different subjects and people sits behind this broad designation. It thus remains important, when researching archival records, to try to understand how they have been cataloged and how they are arranged, and to make use of published guides to the records. The “five tips for your search” provided by the Danish West-Indies site are relevant to all archival researchers, not only those using this large-scale digital collection.26

The fifth tip provided by this website is “be patient—and persist,” advice which is absolutely key to getting the most out of all digital archives. Collections are cataloged in different ways and in different languages, so flexible research strategies are essential. It is often productive to translate search terms into relevant languages, for example. Although most northern European websites offer interfaces in English (this is less the case for France and southern European countries), metadata is still, at the moment, likely to be in the language of the country.

In some sites—Europeana being the principal, but by no means the only example—the amount of data available can be almost overwhelming. Faceted search tools (usually on the left-hand side) offer an effective way to narrow results down, and most websites also offer an “advanced search” facility. Another point to be aware of is that, while digitization often incorporates optical character recognition, it often does not; in the latter case, keyword searches will not search the full text of a book or newspaper, so the researcher may need to spend more time going through individual items.

Listings for African Historical Research

The listings begin with a general section, followed by websites by particular format—manuscripts and documentary archives, maps, museum collections, newspapers, printed books, picture collections, and sound and moving images—and then by regions of Africa. Most websites are listed only once, so readers will find it useful to consult more than one section of the list.

Essential General Websites

  • Europeana

    • o This is the pan-European digital aggregator of archive, library, museum, and art gallery content. Although not comprehensive, Europeana is by far the largest unified database of digitized European heritage content and an essential “go to” site for research. It holds extensive collections from and relating to Africa, particularly museum objects and other visual items.

  • British Library

  • Gallica

    • o The digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (National Library of France; BNF), Gallica offers navigation to its African content from its front page. Digital resources offered include an extensive photograph collection, maps, government and other publications, and black and white digital copies of West African manuscripts in Arabic and ajami (African languages in Arabic script). Some digitized material under copyright is available via Gallica intra muros (Gallica within walls), on-site at the BNF in Paris.

  • German Digital Library

    • o This library contains significant amounts of material on Africa.

  • Moteur Collections on

    • o This collection is France’s official digital aggregator.

Other Websites of General Interest

This section lists websites of general interest to historians of Africa. It includes information resources such as dossiers and blogs as well as digitized resources that cover more than one region of Africa.

  • Africa4: Regards croisés sur l’Afrique

    • o This site is a very rich blog on historical subjects, edited by Vincent Hiribarren and Jean-Pierre Bat and hosted on the website of the newspaper Libération.

  • Archives Portal Europe

    • o This very extensive online catalog of Europe’s archives includes links to digitized content where available.

  • British Documents on the End of Empire

    • o The book series of this name (London, 1992–) consists of multiple volumes of selected source material from the UK National Archives dealing with British decolonization. This site, hosted by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, offers full-text pdfs of these books. Individual volumes on Africa deal with Ghana, Egypt and the defense of the Middle East, Nigeria, Sudan, and Central Africa.

  • Commonwealth Oral Histories

    • o This project, the result of a three-year research program at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, offers searchable transcripts of interviews with about sixty major figures in the recent history of the Commonwealth.

  • Inventaire des recensements et des enquêtes démographiques en Afrique

    • o This site provides a bibliography and access to digitized population censuses and related studies, 1946–2009. The focus is on Francophone resources, with some reference to Anglophone sources. The home page offers an English translation.

  • À la naissance de l’ethnologie française: les missions ethnographiques en Afrique subsaharienne (1928–1939)

    • o This scholarly site covers a number of ethnographic expeditions and includes selected digitized resources.

  • Political Archives from the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London

    • o This site offers selected digitized ephemera, including pamphlets and posters, from a number of African countries, as well as a more extensive catalog of this material. South Africa is especially well represented.

  • Présence africaine: une tribune, un mouvement, un réseau

    • o This dossier is based on an exhibition about Présence africaine, the famous publishing house and campaigning organization, at the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, 2009–2010.

  • SOAS Digital Collections

    • o The strengths of these digitized resources, selected from the collections of SOAS, University of London, include manuscripts (especially from Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Niger, and Chad) and digitized older books, especially works in African languages. There are also some maps, photographs, and artworks. At the time of writing (2018), the resource covered twenty four African countries.

Websites by Format

This section lists major websites by type of digitized resource. More detailed lists are given by region.

Documentary Archives and Manuscripts

This section lists the major sites for manuscripts as well as cross-continental collections of documentary archives. For archives relating to specific regions, see the relevant geographical section.

  • Archives nationales d’outre-mer

  • Archives Portal Europe

    • o This very extensive online catalog of Europe’s archives includes links to digitized content where available.

  • British Library

    • o A large number of Ethiopic manuscripts from the British Library’s collections are coming online at the time of writing, to be followed by a smaller number of West African manuscripts.

  • Center for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, University of Hamburg

    • o This important resource is noted for expertise in manuscripts, although it does not currently display large digitized collections.

  • Counting Colonial Populations: Demography and the Use of Statistics in the Portuguese Empire, 1776–1890

    • o This searchable database of records relates to population statistics, provided by a research project based at the Universidade Nova in Lisbon. The interface is in Portuguese and English.

  • Endangered Archives Programme

    • o This major program, hosted by the British Library and funded by the Arcadia Trust, digitizes endangered archives in order to preserve them. By the end of 2017, the program had funded approximately eighty projects in partnership with African institutions and individuals. The original documents remain in situ, while the digitized copies form an extensive archive which is freely available online. These items range from manuscripts in Arabic, Ge’ez, and other African languages to colonial-era records and photographs. Sound recordings include the Syliphone record label collection from Guinea. The records can be searched and accessed through the EAP website and the British Library’s Archives and Manuscripts catalog.

  • Gallica

    • o The digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF; National Library of France) offers digital copies of over one hundred Arabic-script manuscripts from Africa, including many from Timbuktu. The metadata is detailed and informative; the reproduction is black and white.

  • Oriental Manuscript Resource (OMAR), University of Freiburg

    • o Digitized copies of 2,500 Arabic manuscripts from Mauritania are posted here. The originals are held at the Institute Mauritanien de Recherche Scientifique in Nouakchott, Mauritania; digitization was carried out from microfilm copies made between 1979 and 1997 and held at the University of Freiburg, Germany.

  • SOAS Digital Collections

    • o The digital library of SOAS, University of London, includes manuscripts from numerous countries, especially Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Niger, and Chad.

  • UK National Archives

    • o The National Archives’ website offers many relevant record series free on “digital microfilm” (i.e., digitized microfilm) as large pdfs available for download (these are not searchable by keyword). They include selected records of the Board of Trade, Cabinet Office, Colonial Office, and War Office. The collection offers the very extensive (and mainly 19th-century) series of records concerning the slave trade in FO 84. It also includes records from South Africa (on the Cape Colony, Griqualand West, and the South African Air Force), as well as Anthony Eden’s private office papers, which include material on Sudan and Egypt. (The National Archives also offers numerous records targeted at family historians on a “pay to use” basis.)

  • Material from commercial publishers (behind a paywall) include the following:

    • o Adam Matthew

      • Confidential Print: Africa, 1834–1966—significant correspondence printed for internal circulation by the British government.

      • Empire Online—covers five centuries, with a focus on the British empire, and includes material from several UK libraries and archives.

  • Aluka on JSTOR

    • o Gale Cengage Learning

      • Europe and Africa: Commerce, Christianity, Civilization and Conquest. This is part of Nineteenth Century Collections Online (covering the “long nineteenth century”) and includes records from European archives and libraries.

Digital Sources in Europe for African HistoryClick to view larger

Figure 2. “Lawtanug barke” (The flourishing of baraka [blessing]), a genealogy of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, an 18th-century religious leader in Senegal. Digitized under the Endangered Archives Programme. British Library, EAP334/12/1.


Museum Collections

Museum collections (which often include both picture and object collections and sometimes audiovisual material) are particularly well represented in Europeana. They can also be found on the websites of individual museums as well as national aggregators. The most significant museums for Africa with extensive online collections include:

Picture Collections

The majority of digitized resources on the web consist of photographs and other visual illustrations. This section lists collections relating to more than one region of Africa; collections relating to only one region of the continent are given in the regional listings. It is necessary to consult both to gain a full picture of what is available for any geographic area.

  • Africa Through a Lens

    • o This collection consists of digitized photographs from over one hundred years of African history, beginning in the 1860s. They are taken from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office photographic collection (CO 1069) held at the UK National Archives.28

  • African Independence Days, University of Mainz, Germany

    • o This is an extensive digital archive of material in a number of formats, including photographs, ephemera, and newspapers. Many of the items deal with anniversaries of independence. The countries covered are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Madagascar, Mali, Namibia, Nigeria, and Tanzania.

  • African Rock Art Image Project

    • o This project, run by the British Museum and funded by Arcadia, is making available the photograph holdings of the Trust for African Rock Art. The website includes essays on rock art and a gateway to the photograph database, which forms part of the British Museum’s collections database.


    • o Found here are photographs of West, Central, and Southern Africa, 1840 to the present, many by African photographers. See also African Photography Initiatives.

  • Cambridge Digital Library

    • o The archives of the Royal Commonwealth Society are held by the University of Cambridge, and much has been made available digitally. The content is particularly rich for West Africa and also includes many other countries. There are 19th-century watercolors of South Africa and early 20th-century photographs of Maputo, Mozambique.

  • DEVA

    • o The DEVA database (Digitalisierung Edition Vernetzung in den Afrikawissenschaften—digitization, publishing and connecting in African Studies) is a combined catalog and digital archive based at the University of Bayreuth in Germany. The collections include East African photographs, early 20th-century postcards from North Africa, photographs and sound recordings of Hausa and Tuareg in Nigeria, Niger, and Algeria in the 2000s, and images of the art collections of the Nigeria-based Ulli Beier, held by the university.

  • Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft photograph collection

    • o This very extensive collection of photographs, covering the period from 1887 to 1943, from the German Colonial Association, is made available on the website of the University of Frankfurt. The African countries covered are Burundi, Cameroon, Namibia, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Togo. In German only.

  • Frits Eisenloeffel Photograph Collection

    • o At this location is a selection of the photographs of a Dutch journalist on African independence struggles and liberation. The collection is held at the International Institute of Social History in The Netherlands and relates to Angola, Cape Verde, Eritrea, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Namibia, Senegal, and Sudan.

  • Frobenius Institute

    • o This extensive picture archive from a German cultural anthropology research institute covers the period from 1830 to 1964. At its core are the expeditions of the traveler Leo Frobenius to various parts of Africa. The collections include copies of rock art from West and Southern Africa.

  • German Federal Archives—Digital Picture Archive

    • o This extensive online archive from the Bundesarchiv includes photographs from a wide range of African countries and relates to recent as well as colonial history.

  • Indigo–IRD Picture Library

    • o This site consists of an extensive photograph database from the Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, France. The focus is on contemporary photographs, but there is some older material.

  • International Mission Photography Archive

    • o The IMPA, available through the website of the University of Southern California, makes available missionary photographs from across Africa; these offer much information about African societies as well as missionary work. Collections incorporated into this database include those of mission societies from Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. They include photographs from Congo-Brazzaville, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar, and Tanzania, and from across southern and West Africa.

  • O Portal das Memórias de África e do Oriente

    • o This collection consists of digitized books and journals relating to Portugal’s colonial history, as well as photographs and postcards. Hosted by Aveiro University, Portugal.

  • Royal Geographical Society

    • o The RGS offers a commercial picture library with extensive African items.

  • Science & Society Picture Library

    • o This commercial picture library, a partnership of four UK museums, includes numerous photographs of Africa.

  • Société de géographie photographs

    • o Held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, this very extensive collection of photographs dates from approximately 1850 to 1950 and has been partly digitized and made available on Gallica, with further content to follow.

  • Ulysse

    • o This database from the Archives nationale d’outre-mer (French national overseas archives) includes a sizable collection of digitized photographs, as well as other visual items and maps.

Printed Books

Older published source material relevant to Africa, particularly books published in Europe, is relatively easy to find on the internet since, being out of copyright, such items have been digitized en masse. Some of the major sources are given here. (More ephemeral material such as pamphlets is covered under the relevant section.)

  • Explore the British Library

    • o Search the British Library’s main catalog to find freely available older digitized books. These items can be viewed via the BL’s website or Google Books.

  • Gallica

    • o The digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France offers digitized books relating to Africa, collections of research and cultural publications, and historic government publications relating to French Equatorial Africa, French West Africa, Madagascar, Comoros Islands, French Somaliland (now Djibouti), Tunisia, and Algeria.

  • Goussen Library Collection, University of Bonn, Germany

    • o This collection offers forty Ethiopic printed books, with predominantly biblical content.

  • O Portal das Memórias de África e do Oriente

    • o This collection is of digitized books and journals relating to Portugal’s colonial history. Hosted by Aveiro University, Portugal.

  • SOAS Digital Collections

    • o These digitized resources selected from the collections of SOAS, University of London, include digitized older books, especially works in African languages. At the time of writing, the resource covers twenty four African countries.

  • Sudan Open Archive

    • o Hosted by the Rift Valley Institute (which is based in Kenya and the United Kingdom), this site gives access to published and gray literature from the Sudans, including a range of historical material.


  • IFRA Nairobi Press Archive

    • o More than 50,000 digitized press cuttings from the late 1970s are made available through the Institut français de Recherche en Afrique in Nairobi. In English.

  • Retronews

    • o This is a very extensive site of digitized French newspapers, focused on the period from 1881 to 1914, including a colonies theme with explanatory text.

  • British Newspaper Archive

    • o Available behind a paywall (or free onsite at the British Library), this very extensive resource, developed by Findmypast and the British Library, consists of mainly 19th-century newspapers from the United Kingdom and Ireland and includes copious coverage of African news.

  • Readex

    • o This US commercial company publishes African Newspapers series 1 and 2 (1800–1925) and African Newspapers: the British Library Collection (sixty four pre-1900 newspapers) (all behind a paywall). These are part of the World Newspaper Archive, produced in collaboration with the US Center for Research Libraries.

Sound and Moving Image

  • 40 anos de 25 de Abril–40 anos de independência

    • o Provided by the German radio station Deutsche Welle, this site provides resources (including newspaper cuttings, interviews, and photographs) on the recent history of Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, Portugal, Cape Verde, and Sao Tome and Principe.

  • Archives d’Afrique–Radio France Internationale

    • o This site provides an extensive series of programs on recent African history, including contemporary sound recordings.

  • BL Sounds

    • o This website provides access to very extensive African sound collections held by the British Library, including music, literature, and drama, and early ethnographic recordings. Many are freely available to stream (to find them, tick the box marked “only recordings everyone can play”), while others can be heard on site at the British Library or in UK universities.

  • British Film Institute

    • o BFI Player offers a selection of films from or relating to Africa for streaming (a mixture of free and charged resources).

  • Colonial Film: Moving Images of the British Empire

    • o This website brings together three historic UK film collections, with around 150 films (from across the British empire) available to view online. The site provides information on about 6,000 films in total.

  • Dismarc

    • o This site, which aggregates content for Europeana, brings together music collections from across Europe and beyond. Many of the records link to playable content.

  • European Film Gateway

    • o This resource, which contributes content to Europeana, brings together the collections of thirty-eight film archives from across Europe.

  • EUscreen

    • o The site includes a portal giving access to audiovisual clips giving insight into the social, cultural, and political history of the 20th and 21st centuries. It offers a variety of footage on Africa.

  • Institut national de l’Audiovisual, France

    • o Large online collections of film are posted relating to Africa; online viewing may be charged. Search the holdings through Europeana.

  • Royal Museum for Central Africa

    • o This Belgian museum’s collections center on what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. The website gives access to the partially digitized Ethnological Sound Archive.

  • Sound Archives of the CNRS–Musée de l’Homme

    • o This is a large database of sound recordings including many from Africa, some of which can be played online.

  • A “Working” Filmography of Religious Practice in Africa

    • o This database of research results from SOAS, University of London, provides links to film in this area, both open access and charged.

  • World Oral Literature Project

    • o Based at the Universities of Cambridge and Yale, this website offers selected African material from Zambia, Egypt, Nigeria, and other countries, and includes a selection of the recordings of Ruth Finnegan, author of the classic Oral Literature in Africa (1970); a revised (open-access) edition of the book is available here.

  • Alexander Street

    • o This commercial publisher provides extensive audiovisual content (behind a paywall), including anthropological material (partly sourced from the collections of the Royal Anthropological Institute, London).

Websites by Region

Central Africa

This section deals with websites focusing specifically on Central Africa. For a more complete picture of resources relevant to this region, please see also the lists of key websites and websites by format.

  • Archives de l’Afrique Equatoriale Française (Brazzaville)

    • o This website mainly consists of finding aids to the holdings of the National Archives of Congo-Brazzaville. It is the work of Vincent Hirribarren (Kings College London) and Jean-Pierre Bat (French National Archives), in partnership with the Congo Archives.29

  • Basel Mission Archives

    • o This site brings together digitized photographs and maps with detailed finding aids to the rest of the Basel Mission’s collections. The mission’s fields of interest in Africa were Ghana (from 1828) and Cameroon (from 1886). The integration of these resources and the level of detail with which they are described makes this site particularly valuable.

  • Congo Antislavery

    • o A large collection of digitized photographs on this subject is due to come online as part of the Antislavery Usable Past research project, based at the University of Nottingham, UK.

  • In the Footsteps of the 1946 Ougooué-Congo Mission

    • o This web exhibition featured on Europeana deals with an expedition to Congo-Brazzaville and Gabon. It consists mainly of text and photographs, and is in English and French.

  • Livingstone Online

    • o Digital archives and scholarly content concern the 19th-century British missionary and traveler David Livingstone.

  • Royal Museum for Central Africa

    • o This Belgian museum’s collections center on what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. The website gives access to featured collections as well as the inventory of the Stanley archive and sound recordings.

Horn of Africa and East Africa

This section deals with websites focusing specifically on the Horn and East Africa. For a more complete picture of resources relevant to this region, please also see the lists of key websites and websites by format.

  • Cultura Italia

    • o The Italian national aggregator is especially useful for material on Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia.

  • Iconothèque historique de l’Océan Indien

    • o This website contains a rich picture collection from the island of Réunion (which remains officially a French département).

  • Livingstone Online

    • o Digital archives and scholarly content concern the 19th-century British missionary and traveler David Livingstone.

  • Maji Maji Bibliography Project

    • o This useful website gives references to published primary sources on the Maji Maji uprising in Tanganyika. Its authorship is not made clear, and it has not been updated since 2004.

  • Eridadi M. K. Mulira Papers

    • o These papers of one of Uganda’s prominent politicians in the second half of the 20th century are digitized and made available through the University of Cambridge website.

  • Qatar Digital Library

    • o This very extensive collection of manuscripts in Arabic and archival records in English is the result of a major partnership between the British Library and the Qatar Museums Authority. The site makes available large numbers of records (including documents, photographs and drawings, and maps) from the India Office Records held at the British Library. This online archive contains material relating to many African countries, especially Egypt, British Somaliland, and Abyssinia, since the British interest in these parts of Africa was pursued through the British government of India. In English and Arabic.

  • Rwanda: De la guerre au génocide

    • o The website of a book of this title by André Guichaoua, this resource offers open-access material relating to the 1994 genocide in French, English, and Kinyarwanda.

  • The Sudan Archive at Durham

    • o This major archive, based at the University of Durham, UK, has digitized some material. (Digital images are accessible through the left-hand menu, under “Sudan Archive.”)

Southern Africa (including the Indian Ocean Islands)

This section deals with websites focusing specifically on Southern Africa. For a more complete picture of resources relevant to this region, please see also the lists of key websites, and websites by format, above.

  • Basler Afrika Bibliographien

    • o The digital collections of the Basel Africa Library are described here. They include photographs, which are incorporated into the archive catalog. A large collection of digitized posters, as well as online publications, can be found in the library catalog. The focus is on southern Africa, with a particular emphasis on Namibia.

  • Diamang Digital

    • o Digitized documents from the archives of an Angolan diamond company can be found here, held at the University of Coimbra in Portugal.

  • Fundação Mário Soares: Casa Comum

    • o This site gives access to collections digitized under the aegis of this non-profit foundation (Mário Soares was a prime minister and president who headed Portugal’s first democratically elected government in 1976). The digitized records include archives relating to the Angolan poet and politician Mario Pinto de Andrade and copies of the works of Mozambican artist Malangatana Valente Ngwenya.

  • Legacies of British Slave-ownership

    • o This is a large-scale scholarly project making available extensive data on British slave owners in the Caribbean, South Africa, and Mauritius in the 1830s (based on records held at the UK National Archives). At the time of writing, there were plans to extend the project’s scope to include the (much less extensive) records on enslaved people.

  • Livingstone Online

    • o Digital archives and scholarly content concern the 19th-century British missionary and traveler David Livingstone.

  • The Olive Schreiner Letters Online

    • o This ambitious research project consists of transcripts of approximately 5,000 letters by the South African feminist and socialist writer, Olive Schreiner (1855–1920), held at a number of repositories internationally, with some contextual material. It is well indexed and fully searchable. (The resource does not include digitized images of the correspondence.)30

  • Windhoek Old Location photographs

    • o This resource consists of fifty-seven photographs, part of a thematic collection offered by the Nordic Africa Institute.

  • Rand Daily Mail

    • o This important newspaper, which often took an anti-apartheid editorial stance, is provided by Readex (behind a paywall) and has been digitized partly from the British Library’s holdings. When digitization is complete, the dates covered will be from 1902 to 1985.

Digital Collections Dealing with Liberation Struggles in Southern Africa

  • o Anti-Apartheid and Southern Africa Collection Guide

    • This guide to an important collection held at the Institute for International History in Amsterdam provides substantial information (but not digitized content).

  • o Apartheid South Africa, 1948–1980

    • From commercial publisher Adam Matthew (behind a paywall), this resource consists of correspondence held at the UK National Archives.

  • o Basler Afrika Bibliographien

    • The Basel Africa Library’s digitized poster collection is available through the library catalog.

  • o Ruth First Papers

    • These selected papers from the Ruth First collections are held by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, and are digitized in collaboration with partners in South Africa and Mozambique. Ruth First was a journalist and anti-apartheid campaigner who was assassinated in Maputo in 1982.

  • o Forward to Freedom

    • This site presents an extensive selection of the records of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement (held in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, UK), covering the period from 1959 to 1994. Online resources include narrative text, posters, leaflets, newsletters and other ephemera, photographs, interview transcripts, and a few video clips.

  • o Liberation Africa

    • This is the website of the Nordic Documentation on the Liberation Struggle in Southern Africa Project, covering the involvement of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden). Much of the content consists of finding aids to archives which have not been digitized, but digitized resources include interview transcripts in English, a fairly extensive picture archive, and solidarity posters, especially from Mozambique.

  • o Peter MacKay Archive

    • This substantial archive, held at the University of Stirling, UK, largely concerns the struggle for independence in Zimbabwe. As of 2018, the papers are being digitized through crowdfunding and are to be made available on JSTOR (behind a paywall).

  • o Political Archives from the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London

    • This site offers selected digitized ephemera, including pamphlets and posters, from a number of African countries, as well as a more extensive catalog of this material. South Africa is especially well represented.

  • o Struggles for Freedom Southern Africa

    • This digital collection, originally created through the Aluka project and now behind a paywall on JSTOR, includes content from a variety of sources, including southern African and European countries. The collection can be freely searched and thumbnails viewed online; to view and download larger images, a subscription to JSTOR is necessary. The southern African content of this site is also freely available via DISA (Digital Innovation South Africa).

  • o African Activist Archive

    • This US site, provided by Michigan State University, will also be of interest to researchers in this field.

Digital Sources in Europe for African HistoryClick to view larger

Figure 3. Medical consultation in Campada college, Guinea-Bissau. PAIGC soldiers having tea, 1973–1974. By Roel Coutinho. CC-BY-SA-4.0.

West Africa and Transatlantic Studies

This section deals with websites focusing specifically on West Africa. For a more complete picture of resources relevant to this region, please also see the lists of key websites, and websites by format.

  • Fonds Emile-Louis Abbat sur le Soudan français

    • o Photographs, letters, and reports from Mali, Senegal, and Burkina Faso, 1894–1898, are presented. Abbat was an army lieutenant in French Sudan during that period, and this website is provided by his great-granddaughter.

  • Archives coloniales d’Abidjan

    • o This website mainly consists of finding aids to the holdings of the National Archives of Côte d’Ivoire as well as a small selection of digitized documents. It is the work of Vincent Hirribarren (Kings College London) and Jean-Pierre Bat (French National Archives), in partnership with the archives in Abidjan.

  • Basel Mission Archives

    • o This site brings together digitized photographs and maps with detailed finding aids to the rest of the Basel Mission’s collections. The mission’s fields of interest in Africa were Ghana (from 1828) and Cameroon (from 1886). The integration of these resources and the level of detail with which they are described makes this site particularly valuable.

  • Cartes postales de l’Afrique Occidentale Française (1900–1960)

    • o This website displays a collection of about 1,400 postcards of French West Africa, together with detailed metadata.

  • Roel Coetinho photograph collection

    • o The approximately 750 photographs posted here were taken by Professor Coetinho during his medical work in Guinea Bissau and Senegal in 1973–1974 and made available on Wikimedia Commons. The photographs, which were taken during the final period of the independence struggle in Guinea Bissau, cover a broad range of themes. The full digital archive is available here and the physical collection is at the Library of the African Studies Center, University of Leiden.

  • Centre Edmond Fortier

    • o Samples of postcards are posted showing photographs by Edmond Fortier, a photographer active in Senegal and other parts of West Africa in the early 20th century.31

  • Fundação Mário Soares: Casa Comum

    • o This site gives access to collections digitized under the aegis of this non-profit foundation. Mário Soares was a prime minister and president who headed Portugal’s first democratically elected government in 1976. The digitized records include archives relating to the nationalist Amilcar Cabral and record series from Guinea Bissau.

  • Gold Coast DataBase

    • o This site offers an extensive database of biographical information concerning Euro-African and Dutch individuals and families in West Africa, as well as some picture collections. It is the website of Michel R. Doortmont; access is free but registration is necessary.

  • Luís Graça. Subsídios para a história da guerra colonial

    • o A selection of photographs and maps is presented relating to Guinea Bissau in the 1950s.

  • Sjoerd Hofstra photograph collection

    • o Over one hundred photographs are posted here showing Sierra Leone in the period 1934–1936, available on Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons licence (allowing reuse under certain conditions). Sjoerd Hofstra was a Dutch professor of anthropology whose collection is deposited in the Library of the African Studies Center, University of Leiden.

Digital Sources in Europe for African HistoryClick to view larger

Figure 4. Panguma, Sierra Leone, 1935. By Sjoerd Hofstra—African Studies Center (Leiden), CC BY-SA 3.0.

  • Liberation Africa

    • o The website of the Nordic Documentation on the Liberation Struggle in Southern Africa Project includes photographs taken by Knut Andreasson in the liberated areas of Guinea Bissau in 1970.


    • o Enrique Martino has assembled on this site the sources he used for his Berlin PhD, at least 1,500 items from several European countries as well as Nigeria. He sees the website as a new way of opening the archive.32

  • Cahiers de terrain de Raymond Mauny Raymond Mauny (1912–1994) was a French archaeologist and historian who was employed at the Institut français de l’Afrique noire in Dakar, Senegal from 1942 to 1962. Mauny’s journals are available on the Transcrire crowdsourcing website, which also offers the African journals of Marceau Gast and Edmond Bernus. For Mauny, see also this blog. Sierra Leone 1930s photographs

    • o This website consists of 115 anonymous photographs of Sierra Leone in the 1930s on Wikimedia Commons.

  • Sierra Leone Heritage

    • o This imaginative website includes digitized items from a number of museums, including the Sierra Leone National Museum, and ethnographic recordings held by the British Library.

  • West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song

    • o Digitized collection items and expert content are presented from the 2015–2016 exhibition of the same title at the British Library.33

  • West African Settlement History Archive

    • o This site mainly consists of finding aids to an archival collection (including interviews and documentary material) held at Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany, concerning the people of northwestern Ghana and southwestern Burkina Faso.

  • Digital Collections Dealing with Enslavement and Transatlantic Studies

    • o The Atlantic: Slavery, Trade, and Empire

      • This website accompanies a permanent gallery at the National Maritime Museum, London, opened in 2007 to commemorate the bicentenary of the abolition of the British transatlantic slave trade. It contains 220 digitized objects.

    • o Campagnes de traite négrière au XVIIIe siècle

      • Digitized records (mainly ships’ logbooks) from the French National Archives of slaving voyages between 1721 and 1757 can be found here.

    • o The Danish West Indies—Sources of History

      • On March 1, 2017, the Danish National Archives made all its colonial records relating to the Danish Virgin Islands freely available online; creation of transcripts and tagging of records by volunteers continued through 2017. This massive project, carried out with the support of the Danish National Archives and the Danish government, is unusual in its scope; although it deals with the Caribbean rather than Africa, the records will be of interest to transatlantic scholars.

    • o Legacies of British Slave-ownership

      • This large-scale scholarly project, based at UCL, London, makes available extensive data on British slave owners in the Caribbean, South Africa, and Mauritius in the 1830s (based on records held at the UK National Archives). At the time of writing, there were plans to extend the project’s scope to include the much less extensive records on enslaved people.

    • o Recovered Histories: Reawakening the Narratives of Enslavement, Resistance, and the Fight for Freedom

      • Extensive digitized 18th- and 19th-century collections of the UK-based Anti-Slavery International, including a large number of pamphlets, are available here. It is unfortunate that a lack of metadata makes the identification of some items difficult, but most can be identified through their digitized title pages.

    • o Remembering 1807

      • Digitized collections posted here record the commemorations of the bicentenary of the abolition of the British transatlantic slave trade in 2007. This digitized collection has been made available online as part of the Antislavery Usable Past research project, based at the University of Nottingham, UK.

    • o Traite des noirs et esclavage

      • Digitized records posted here relate to five slave ships (1772–1791); the originals are held in the municipal archives in La Rochelle, France. There is further information here.

    • o Understanding Slavery Initiative

      • Built to commemorate the 2007 bicentenary of the abolition of the British transatlantic slave trade, by 2017 this website was still live but no longer being updated. It was a national learning project supported by several UK partners and offers essays and a selection of digitized objects.

    • o Slavery, Abolition and Social Justice

      • The earliest material in this extensive collection, which includes material from European libraries and archives, dates from 1490. It is provided by commercial publisher Adam Matthew (behind a paywall).

    • o Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive

      • This site consists of an extensive collection of historical documentation, including some content from European libraries and archives, from Gale Cengage Learning (behind a paywall).

Selected Resources in Related Disciplines

  • Biblioteca Africana

    • o Part of the Miguel de Cervantes Virtual Library, this resource focuses on African authors. In Spanish.

  • Endangered Languages Programme

    • o This resource preserves and publishes endangered language documentation materials from around the world. Some of the material is open access, while some is subject to sign-in.

  • Espace Afrique-Caraïbe

    • o This literary website includes the digitized manuscripts of the Malagasy writer Jean-Jacques Rabearivelo. See also CARTOMAC.

  • Language and Popular Culture in Africa

    • o This site, provided by the academics at the University of Amsterdam, includes a small number of historical texts in African languages, with interpretation in English or French.

Further Reading

Barringer, T., and M. Wallace, eds. African Studies in the Digital Age: DisConnects? Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014.Find this resource:

    Bergenthum, H. “Afrika.” Clio online. (In German.)Find this resource:

      Kominko, M., ed. From Dust to Digital: Ten Years of the Endangered Archives Programme. Cambridge, UK: OpenBook Publishers, 2015.Find this resource:

        Martino, E. “Open Sourcing the Colonial Archive: A Digital Montage of the History of Fernando Po and the Bight of Biafra.” History in Africa 41 (2014): 387–415Find this resource:

          Purday, J. “Think Culture: from Concept to Construction.” The Electronic Library 27, no. 6 (2009): 919–937Find this resource:

            Scott, T. “Building a Free and Unrestricted Digital Museum and Library”. Paper presented at the Museum Training Program for Medical Communities International Lectures and Workshop, Fu Jen Catholic University, Taipei Taiwan, October 2017.Find this resource:

              Thompson, S. “Why Don’t Archivists Digitize Everything?”. Archives@PAMA (blog), May 31, 2017.Find this resource:


                (1.) The author is grateful to the following people for their help in response to her questionnaire about digital sources for African history: Hartmut Bergenthum; Veit Arlt; Gerard van der Bruinhorst, Jos Damen and staff of the African Studies Library, University of Leiden; Fabrice Melka; Alison Metcalfe; John Pinfold; and Claudia Wirthlin. Bergenthum’s article, “Afrika,” has been an important source of reference for this article. At the British Library, the author is grateful to Tom Miles for his introduction to the finer points of Europeana, and to Jody Butterworth for her help with queries related to the Endangered Archives Program. EAP grant holders Fallou Ngom and Michael Gevers kindly gave permission to use their projects’ images.

                (3.) See, for example, J. E. Phillips, “The Early Issues of the First Newspaper in Hausa, Gaskiya ta fi Kwabo, 1939–1945,” History in Africa 14 (2014): 425–431. These early issues were digitized by Arewa House in Nigeria with funding from the Endangered Archives Program. See also M. Kominko, ed., From Dust to Digital: Ten Years of the Endangered Archives Programme (Cambridge, UK: OpenBook Publishers, 2015). There are chapters on EAP projects and related scholarship in Cameroon, Ethiopia, Guinea, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, and Senegal.

                (4.) H. Rose-Murray, “Black Abolitionist Performances and Their Presence in Britain,” British Library (blog), August 12, 2016.

                (5.) For a discussion of how best to elicit and channel public participation in one project, see J. Orme, “Viewing ‘Africa Through a Lens,’” in Barringer and Wallace, eds., African Studies, 221–233. In regard to crowdsourcing, for example, over £8,000 was raised to digitize the Peter Mackay Archive at the University of Stirling in Scotland in 2016–2017. See Crowdfunder.

                (6.) M. Kominko, “Crumb Trails, Threads and Traces: Endangered Archives and History,” in From Dust to Digital, ed. Kominko, xlix–lxviii.

                (8.) See Europeana.

                (9.) Website of the German Digital Library.

                (10.) T. Scott, “Building a Free and Unrestricted Digital Museum and Library” (paper presented at the Museum Training Program for Medical Communities International Lectures and Workshop, Fu Jen Catholic University, Taipei Taiwan, October 2017).

                (11.) For example, see D. A. Reboussin and L. N. Taylor, “Improving Digital Collection Access with Simple Search Engine Optimisation Strategies,” in African Studies, ed. Barringer and Wallace.

                (12.) For further discussion of digital selection policies, see I. Cooke and M. Wallace, “African Studies in the Digital Age: Challenges for Research and National Libraries,” in African Studies, ed. Barringer and Wallace, 15–38.

                (13.) On EAP, see Kominko, ed., From Dust to Digital.

                (14.) The comments page of the Basel Mission Archives’ shows the range of people responding to their online holdings.

                (15.) J. Butterworth, “Saving Archives through Digitization: Reflections on Endangered Archives Programme Projects in Africa” (unpublished paper presented at the SCOLMA conference, September 11, 2017). On these recordings, see Graeme Counsel, “Syliphone Record Label Archive from Guinea,” British Library blog (January 25, 2016).

                (16.) For a summary of the debates around Aluka, see Cooke and Wallace, “African Studies,” 28–31.

                (17.) For a useful perspective on the practicalities of digitization, see this blog from a Canadian archive.

                (21.) Website of the German Digital Library and of Europeana.

                (22.) The Collections Trust is funding the maintenance of the current Culture Grid website.

                (24.) For German colonial history, see especially the files of the Reichskolonialamt (1832–1945, R 1001), Behörden des Schutzgebietes Deutsch-Südwestafrika (1886–1939, R 1002), Behörden des Schutzgebietes Deutsch-Ostafrika (1893–1916, R 1003), and those of the Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft (1887–1936, R 8023). Bergenthum, “Afrika.”

                (25.) For an introduction to Archives Portal Europe.

                (26.) For a broader discussion of the problems of searching digitized content, see Scott, “Building.”

                (27.) For a description of the archives relating to Madagascar (with a summary in English), see E. Camara and J. Villon, “Centers des Archives d’Outre-Mer à Aix-en-Provence (CAOM): Historique des archives de Madagascar,” African Research and Documentation 101 (2006): 27–37.

                (28.) For a discussion of the creation of this resource, see Orme, “Viewing ‘Africa Through a Lens.’”

                (29.) See V. Hiribarren, “Why Researchers Should Publish Archive Inventories Online: The Case of the Archives of French Equatorial Africa,” History in Africa 43 (2016): 375–378.

                (30.) See also L. Stanley and H. Dampier, “Towards the Epistolarium: Issues in Researching and Publishing the Olive Schreiner Letters,” African Research and Documentation 113 (2010): 27–32.

                (31.) See also P. Hickling, “The Early Photographs of Edmond Fortier: Documenting Postcards from Senegal,” African Research and Documentation 102 (2007): 37–54; and D. Moreau, Edmond Fortier, viagem a Timbuktu: fotografias da África do Oeste em 1906 (São Paulo, Brazil: Literart, 2015).

                (32.) Enrique Martino, “Touts and Despots: Recruiting Assemblages of Contract Labor in Fernando Pó and the Gulf of Guinea, 1858–1979” (PhD diss., Humboldt University of Berlin, 2016); and Martino, “Open Sourcing.”

                (33.) See also G. Casely-Hayford, J. Topp Fargion, and M. Wallace, West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song (London: British Library, 2015).