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African Studies: Archives


The Bodleian Libraries, in particular the Special Collections in the Weston Library, hold a range of manuscripts and archives. They comprise the papers of individuals, families and organisations and include correspondence, diaries, papers and photographs.

On this page you will find recommended resources and guidance on how to search for and access archive material for African Studies not only in Oxford but also nationally and internationally.


Terms you may encounter in your research

A collection of documents and records that contain historical information, or a place where these documents and records are kept.

Digital archive
It is similar in purpose to a physical archive, but the historical documents and objects that provide evidence of the past have been digitised (either by scanning or photography, or was created digitally in the first place) and made available online.

Personal Papers

In archives, personal papers are denoted as the private documents and related materials accumulated by an individual in the course of a lifetime (letters, diaries, journals, legal documents, etc.).

Special Collections

A special collection is a group of items, such as rare books or documents, that are either irreplaceable or unusually rare and valuable. For this reason special collections are usually stored separately from regular library collections in a secure location with environmental controls to preserve the items for posterity. The largest concentration of special collections in Oxford can be found in the Weston Library.


The Bodleian Library holds a range of manuscripts and archives which are relevant to African Studies.

Use the tabs above to explore the key archival resources and collections relevant for research on Africa in both print and digital form.

Help with archives

Online catalogues and collection-level descriptions can be found at

Hardcopy catalogues, for collections which only have collection-level descriptions online, are available in the

Below you will find some of the key archives and manuscript collections for African studies held in the Bodleian Library and available for consultation in the Charles Wendell David Reading Room in the Weston Library. The Weston Library has circa 4000 manuscript and archive collections relating to Africa and the Commonwealth and is particularly strong in material relating to the history of British colonial administration.  Use the Special Collections: Commonwealth and African collections subject guide for more information.

The Bodleian Libraries subscribe to a number of databases comprising historical and archival material which may be of interest to Africanist students and researchers looking for primary sources.


Depending on the database provider, you may need to use your Oxford Single Sign On to access materials.

In addition to subscription archival databases there are also many freely available historical sources which may be of interest.  A selection of these is listed below.

There are many Africa-related archives in the UK.  The key finding aids to locate them are:

Below is a selection of key UK-based archives for African Studies:

For an excellent overview of some of the key Africa-related archives available consult the Archives and Special Collections page of the African Studies Library Libguide.

In addition to Oxford-based and national archives for African Studies there are many international archives.  A small selection is listed below: