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HIST 3395 & 4386: Pre- Colonial African History

Resource Guide for Pre-Colonial African History, HIST 3395 & HIST 4386

Archival Collections


Archives Hub: archives in UK universities and colleges & The National Archives

Archives nationales de France. Centre des Archives d’Outre-Mer (IREL)

Digitized and Cataloged African Posters: Posters from the Herskovits Library of African Studies

NYPL Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture --See especially: Manuscripts, Archives, & Rare Books

Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies at Northwestern University maintains a comprehensive collection of posters published in Africa and elsewhere. The posters provide a unique resource to carry on research in a broad range of disciplines by consulting the visual image created by governments (independent and colonial) and international agencies, as well as political, labor, social, religious, educational, and cultural organizations. On this website, 366 posters, selected as a representative sampling of the collection, are available for searching and viewing.

The Library of Congress--African & Middle East Reading Room--Search LC catalog

The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) & Cooperative Africana Materials Project (CAMP)

US National Archives and Records Administration-- Search CRL/CAMP catalog


  •  Africa Through a Lens. British National Archives. Africa through a lens is an online collection of thousands of images taken from a broader photographic collection of Foreign and Commonwealth Office images, held at The National Archives. Starting with some incredible early photographs from the 1860s, the images span over 100 years of African history and cover 20 countries. The collection was brought about by the request of the Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1869. He asked governors to arrange for the taking of photographs of 'noteworthy buildings and scenery ... together with individuals of various races peculiar to the colony'. Each governor interpreted the task in his own way, which has culminated in this unique and varied collection. The original records include what appear to be personal scrapbooks, official albums, printed pamphlets, and even framed photographs and paintings. Some images are official public information shots, others are hand-drawn sketches. The number of images for each country also varies, depending on how diligently the request was carried out.
  •  Africa Focus: Sights and Sounds of a Continent (University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries and African Studies Program, Madison, Wisconsin)The website offers downloadable images, sound files, and other materials on Africa drawn from contributions by UWM faculty over the last 20-30 years.
  • African Online Digital Library (AODL) is a portal to multimedia collections about Africa. MATRIX, working in cooperation with the African Studies Center at Michigan State University, is partnering with universities and cultural heritage organizations in Africa to build this resource.
  • Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record Compiled by Jerome Handler (Virginia Foundation for the Humanities) and Michael Tuite (Digital Medial Laboratory, University of Virginia). Over 1,000 images of pre-colonial Africa (ex. Queen Nzinga, King of Benin, King of the Kongo, European trading posts) and the slave trade in Africa and the Americas. SEE ALSO Images, Voyages, Atlantic Slave Trade Database (Emory)
  •  Basel Mission Archive. Photograph Collection Over 25,000 images from the Basel Mission Archive with 6,100 images from Cameroon and 5,900 images from Ghana "dating from 1860 (in the case of Ghana) or 1885 (in the case of Cameroon) to ca. 1945."
  •  Colonial Picture Archive searchable in ilissAfrica (Internet Library Sub-Saharan Africa)
  • The Colonial Picture Archive comprises the image collection of the “German Colonial Society” (Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft), now located at Frankfurt University Library, Germany, (below), and a collection of photographs, photo albums, and postcards owned by Sam Cohen Library, Swakopmund, Namibia. Over 50.000 digitized historical pictures cover the whole of Africa.
  • Die Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft (DKG) Bildarchiv In English and German. The Stadt- und Universit�tsbibliothek Frankfurt am Main has put online a large keyword-searchable database of colonial-era photographs, 1822-1936, from the archives of the Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft [German Colonial Society], a major organization behind Germany's colonial expansion.
  •  France. Bibliotheque nationale. Gallica "Gallica propose un accès à 70 000 ouvrages numérisés, à plus de 80 000 images et à plusieurs dizaines d'heures de ressources sonores." Images and full text from 19th century books and journals. Included are illustrations from over 16 African travel and ethnographic books from the Library of the Musee de l'Homme. For example, portraits of Senegalese women are in Esquisses s�n�galaises, Physionomie du pays, Peuplades, Commerce, Religions, Pass� et avenir, R�cits et l�gendes [Paris : P. Bertrand , 1853]. [KF]
  •  France. Centre des Archives d' Outre- Mer ( Aix-en-Provence ) - Photograph Database, UlysseIn French. The database, Ulysse has hundreds of photographs, posters, and eventually maps. Search under region and country. "Commencée en 2002, cette base a pour objectif de rendre progressivement accessibles les photographies isolées ou en albums, les cartes postales, les affiches, les dessins et gravures, les cartes et plans." Covers the 17th to mid 20th centuries.
  •  Flickr - Images FOR Africa "We want to collect 'Images of Africa' that are 'free to use according to a Creative Commons License: Social documentary, structures, public transport, village life, poverty, nature, wildlife ... everything!"