History, Africa *: Historical Research Resources

This guide is intended to help any faculty, graduate, or undergraduate student find resources in the area of African history.

Historical Encyclopedias

Encyclopedia of Africa South of the Sahara
"A good encyclopaedia is a reliable reference resource which also seduces the reader to forget time and browse on and on, bringing on item after item; it should inspire, as this one does, as well as inform. These volumes will surely entrap those readers, for whom it is designed, 'who wish to learn about Africa'..." - P. W. T. Baxter Journal of the Royal Anthropological Journal

Encyclopedia of African Peoples
"This handy resource is divided into four major sections: 'Peoples of Africa,' 'Culture and History,' 'Nations,' and 'Biographies.' 'Peoples of Africa' covers more than 1000 peoples while describing 200 major ethnic groups such as the Hausa, Maasai, and Zulu in greater detail. The 'Culture and History' section features the pictorial histories, ethnic distributions, and chronologies of North Africa, East Africa, West Africa, Central Africa, and Southern Africa.'Nations' covers countries from Algeria to Zimbabwe, which are described in terms of population, geography, economy, and recent historical events."

Historical Dictionary of Pre-Colonial Africa
"This historical dictionary seeks to familiarize the reader with pre-colonial Africa, the Africa that began with the migration of the Bantu from their homeland in 500 B.C. and ended with European control in the 19th century. The volume seeks to familiarize readers with the culture, events, migration, and rulers of Africa from this time. The introduction provides a broad background of African history, followed by a chronology of the rise and fall of the many dynasties that ruled the great kingdoms of Egypt and Nubia, among others..."

Encyclopedia of African History
"Covering the entire continent from Morocco, Libya, and Egypt in the north to the Cape of Good Hope in the south, and the surrounding islands from Cape Verde in the west to Madagascar, Mauritius, and Seychelles in the east, the Encyclopedia is an A-Z reference resource on the history of the entire African continent."

Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century African History
"The focus of this dictionary-style work is the past century of African history, covering decades of tremendous change, including resistance to colonial rule and the reestablishment of African independence. Global forces that had an impact on the continent are also considered. ..."

New Encyclopedia of Africa
"This substantial expansion and reworking of the classic Encyclopedia of Africa South of the Sahara (1997) covers the entire continent, from the Europe-facing shores of the Mediterranean to the commercial bustle of Cape Town. The set addresses the entire history of African cultures from the pharaohs and the ancient civilizations of the south through the colonial era to the emergence of 53 independent countries, some of them, like Nigeria, newly emergent in world commerce and others deep in conflict (Sudan, Liberia, Congo)..."

Descriptions of resources are adapted or quoted from vendor websites.

Newspapers and Magazines

British Library Newspapers 1600-1950 -- provides access to the most significant digital collection of British historic newspapers. The cross-searchable platform provides access to specially commissioned essays and contextual materials intended to help non-specialist users with perspective and analysis.

Electronic Newspapers of Africa – compiled by Columbia University Libraries, this list of open access online newspapers (available without subscription). This directory is part of the Cooperative Africana Materials Project (CAMP) founded in 1963 as a joint effort by research libraries throughout the world and the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) to promote the preservation of publications and archives concerning the nearly fifty nations of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Times Digital Archive -- provides the complete digital edition of The Times (London), using keyword searching and hit-term highlighting to retrieve full facsimile images of either a specific article or a complete page. The entire newspaper is captured, with all articles, advertisements and illustrations/photos divided into categories to facilitate searching. Coverage is from 1785-2008.

Descriptions of resources are adapted or quoted from vendor websites.


African Historical Maps – a collection of historical maps of Africa made accessible by the William and Yvonne Jacobson Digital Africana Program, University of Cape Town, South Africa.

Afriterra Cartographic Library – created by a private foundation, this site provides access to more than 5000 of the rarest original maps focused on Africa that span over 500 years. The complete scope covers all regions of the continent and scales in eight different languages. Maps can be searched by keyword, place, and language.

David Rumsey Map Collection: Images of Africa – maps of Africa from the Cartography Associates organization and Stanford University. The collection includes images from atlases, globes, school geographies, maritime charts, and a variety of separate maps. The LUNA Workspace search engine allows basic keyword searching or use the advanced search to find specific items within certain parameters or you can browse the maps.

Historical Maps of Africa [copy and paste this link: http://alabamamaps.ua.edu/historicalmaps/africa/index2_1700.htm] – a digitized collection of selected map holdings from sources including the University of Alabama Map Library and other academic and public library institutions throughout the state. Contents can be browsed by specific time period.

Library of Congress Geography and Map Division – search page to the “National Map Library” of the United States. Although only representing a fraction of the Division’s collections, searching with the term “Africa” reveals more than 380 digital maps, many of which are centuries old. Includes access to specific map collections as well as other collections of archival materials maps that include maps.

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, Collections Portal – use this search engine to locate more than 1,100 maps of Africa digitized from the University of Texas Libraries repository of maps. Enter “maps Africa” to obtain a complete list of currently held maps or search by country or region in Africa.

Smithsonian Online Virtual Archives: Historic Maps of Africa Collection – digital content of map housed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. The collection includes 78 maps  from circa 1631 to 1973. Geographic content of individual maps varies from topographical information, boundaries of colonial territories, and ethnic groups, among other topics. While several depict the continent of Africa in its entirety, many focus on specific countries and geographic regions. There are a particularly large number of maps depicting the West African Coast.

To the Mountains of the Moon: Mapping African Exploration, 1541-1880 – a collection of original the expedition maps from the cartographic and rare book resources of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections of Princeton University Library for an exhibit about the efforts of 19th century British, French, and German explorers to document the geographic landscape and cultures of Africa.

Descriptions of resources are adapted or quoted from vendor websites.

Primary Source Archives

African Diaspora Online – provides access to primary and secondary sources and videos concerning the migration of people of African descent to countries around the world from the 19th century to the present.

African Digital Research Repositories – a directory of historical repositories within the African continent compiled by the International African Institute, which aims to promote the scholarly study of Africa's history, societies, and cultures. At the bottom of the page, repositories are listed by country, ordered alphabetically.

African Film Database [cut and paste this link: http://africa-archive.com/] – a collaborative digital project that seeks to create a catalog of films from and about the continent of Africa. With access to African film, the site is a point of entry into the history of colonialism and decolonization, artistic and literary emergences, spaces of resistance, innovative cinematic practices, and global conditions of production and distribution.

African Language Materials Archive [cut and paste this link: http://alma.matrix.msu.edu/] -- a multi-partner project focusing on the promotion and documentation of literature and literacy in the languages of Africa. ALMA has two websites. At our original site, a section of the Digital Library for International Research, you can find African language literary documents. This, our complementary site, contains complementary materials including African language video recordings, documentary video, translation work, and bibliographies, space for which is provided by the MATRIX Project of Michigan State University.

African Online Digital Library [cut and paste this link: http://www.aodl.org/index.php] – a resource created by the African Studies Center at Michigan State University, in partnership with universities and cultural heritage organizations in Africa to provides free universal access to cultural heritage materials from and about African countries and communities. It brings together tens of thousands of digitized photographs, videos, archival documents, maps, interviews and oral histories in numerous African languages, many of which are contained in curated thematic galleries and teaching resources.

Confidential Print: Africa, 1833-1966 – this resource contains papers issued by the British Government between 1820 and 1970. These are the most important papers generated by the Foreign and Colonial Offices and include single-page letters or telegrams to comprehensive dispatches, investigative reports, and texts of treaties. The documents in Confidential Print: Africa begin with coastal trading in the early nineteenth century and the Conference of Berlin of 1884 and the subsequent Scramble for Africa. They then follow the abuses of the Congo Free State, fights against tropical disease, Italy’s defeat by the Abyssinians, World War II, apartheid in South Africa, and colonial moves towards independence.

Connecting-Africa – a gateway to more than 91,000 published research materials on Africa and digital resources on Africa (full-text of publications, images and sound) from almost ninety institutional repositories created and maintained by the African Studies Centre Leiden in the Netherlands.

Cooperative Africana Materials Project (CAMP) – acquires and preserves materials in microform and digital formats and collects: newspapers; journals; government publications; personal and corporate archives; and personal papers of scholars and government leaders in Sub-Saharan Africa. CAMP's materials are in many African and European languages, including Swahili, Portuguese, French, Zulu, Xhosa, English, and German.

Empire Online – this resource brings together a wide range of primary source materials sourced from more than twenty archives for the study of "Empire", its theories, practices and consequences, dating from the late fifteenth century onwards. Includes a thematic layout with sections covering Cultural Contacts, Literature of Empire, the Visible Empire, Religion, Race, Class and Imperialism; thousands of images of unique source material including maps, manuscripts, pamphlets, paintings, drawings and rare books, and interactive data maps visually representing the history of world empires between the 15th and 20th centuries.

Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports -- translated full-text transcripts of international radio and television broadcasts, news agency transmissions, newspaper and magazine articles, and government pronouncements. The reports contain political, military, economic, environmental, and sociological news and information, as well as some scientific and technical information. The Daily Reports are available from September 1941 through October of 1996. Many of these materials are firsthand reports of events as they occurred.

Internet African History Sourcebook – created by the History Department of Fordham University in 1996 but continually managed and updated, this site is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted historical texts on the history of human societies in the continent of Africa. In addition to direct links to documents, links are made to a number of other web resources. Contents can also be searched via the Search box at the top of each page.

JSTOR Primary Sources Aluka Digital Library – this resource includes a wide variety of to multidisciplinary and discipline-specific scholarly materials related to Africa ranging from archival documents, periodicals, books, reports, manuscripts, and reference works, to three-dimensional models, maps, oral histories, plant specimens, photographs, and slides.

OpenDOAR – a global Directory of Open Access Repositories that contain items that are either academic outputs (e.g. journal articles, theses/dissertations, reports, working papers, conference proceedings, books/book chapter) and/or academic resources with sufficient metadata or documentation to make the material re-usable (e.g. archival material, datasets, software, images, videos, learning material). You can search and browse through thousands of registered repositories based on a range of features, such as location, software, or type of material held. An excellent source for discovering archival holding at academic institutions in select African countries.

Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database – a open access site containing information on almost 35,000 slaving voyages that forcibly embarked over 12 million Africans for transport to the Americas and hundreds of thousands more who were trafficked within the Americas between the 16th and 19th centuries. Explore where they were taken, the numerous rebellions that occurred, the loss of life during the voyages, the identities and nationalities of the perpetrators, and more.

African Libraries

Libraries with Major Africana Collections in West, Eastern & Southern Africa -- a directory of national and university libraries in various regions of Africa compiled and maintained by the University Libraries for the African Studies program at Columbia University. As a student seeking assistance on your research, feel free to reach out to any of these libraries to ask for help. Just like the librarians at USC, the librarians at these institutions would welcome the opportunity to help you.

Using Primary Source and Archival Materials

AM Research Methods – this platform provides practical advice on how to work with primary source materials and integrate them into a research study. Contents include approximately 200 hundred essays, instructive videos, practical "How to" guides, and case studies created by scholars and archivists. The videos and "How to" guides introduce the key concepts of conducting research and analyzing primary source materials. Case studies describe examples of the ways in which historians have used diaries, government records, and posters, or popular culture, gender, and science materials in their research. A discrete collection of cases focusing on historical datasets is also included.

Descriptions of resources are adapted or quoted from vendor websites.