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Cambridge LibGuides

African Studies Library: Archives & Special Collections

What can you find in our archives?


Some of the material in our archive has been either catalogued or listed, and can be fetched by completing a form at the issue desk or by completing a form online.  Materials stored in the archive are generally for consultation only.  With the help of volunteers the basement collection is being reorganised and listed, and we will be continuously adding to these pages.  

Please see the archival collections listed in the box below (or click on the photos above) to view details of what the team is currently working on to make available.  Take a look at our guest blogposts to keep up to date with progress: caslibraryblog 

Items that need to be fetched are indicated on iDiscover by the following location information: "African Studies Centre Library : Library Archive Store"   

Archival material needs to be handled with care, and the desk next to the Library Office has been reserved for archival material consultation.  

Please get in touch with us if you have any questions regarding our collections.

Archive collections

The following collections are currently being organised and listed by our team of volunteers.  Once these items have been listed and housed correctly, a finding aid describing the materials will be available in the first tab of this box.

A. D. Leishman (founding partner of publishers Leishman & Taussig): A substantial collection of: slides; books; and a series of large ring-files on a number of east, central & southern African countries containing ephemera collected during his career in Africa from the 1970s to the 2000s.

Peter Sanders: A significant collection of research material for the author's books on Lesotho: 

  • Lithoko: Sotho Praise Poems (co-authored with Mosebi Damane and published in the Oxford Library of African Literature by the Clarendon Press, 1974)
  • Moshoeshoe, Chief of the Sotho (Heinemann, 1975)
  • The Last of the Queen’s Men: a Lesotho Experience (Witwatersrand University Press, 2000)
  • Medicine Murder in Colonial Lesotho: the Anatomy of a Moral Crisis (co-authored with Colin Murray, and published in the International African Library by the Edinburgh University Press, 2005)
  • Throwing down white man: Cape Rule and Misrule in Colonial Lesotho, 1871-1884 (Morija Archives and Merlin Press, 2010)

John H. Smith: His collection of correspondence and press cuttings regarding the 1966 coup in Nigeria and its aftermath where he was stationed as a senior overseas British civil servant.

Richard Synge Nigeria Papers: A collection of reports, documents and press cuttings collected by and reflecting the research and reporting by Richard Synge, West Africa editor, editor of the weekly Africa Economic Digest 1980-1990, editor of Africa Analysis 1990-1994, and a freelance journalist specialising in Nigeria.


National & International Archives

For archival material elsewhere in the University, please use the catalogue Janus to browse Africa-related items 

Cambridge University Digital Library (CUDL) hosts stunning images of items held in Cambridge, particularly the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) Collection

Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) Collection, University of Cambridge A treasure-trove of information, pictorial and written, print and manuscript, on the Commonwealth and Britain's former colonial territories, comprising over 300,000 printed items, about 800 archival collections (including manuscript diaries, correspondence, pictures, cine films, scrapbooks and newspaper cuttings) and over 120,000 photographs.

Near & Middle Eastern Collections (UL) The University Library's Near and Middle Eastern Collections include written materials originating from the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, the countries of the wider Middle East and the Islamic regions of North Africa and Central Asia. Includes Coptic & Ethiopic materials.

Churchill Archives Centre Hosts over 600 archive collections, including the Churchill Papers. Click on the link to view material on Africa

Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives (AAM)  The Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives Committee promotes research and discussion of the history of international solidarity campaigns with Southern Africa. Print archives are held at Oxford in the Bodleian, National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, and Glasgow Caledonian University.  The website includes video, and documents for download.

Archives Hub The Archives Hub provides a gateway to many of the UK's richest historical archives.  Use the Archives Hub to find unique sources for your research. Search across descriptions of archives from over 1,000 years of history, held at over 300 institutions across the UK.

British Library - Africa Manuscripts & Archives  The British Library is a rich resource for manuscripts and archives relating to Africa in western languages, Arabic, and African scripts and languages.

British Empire & Commonwealth Collection (Bristol). The collections of the former British Empire and Commonwealth Museum (BECM) were transferred to the care of Bristol Museums, Galleries and Archives. This major collection covers a wide range of material relating to the countries of the British Empire and the Commonwealth and includes manuscripts, objects, photographs, film and sound archives.  See their celebrated online exhibition: Empire through a Lens

National Register of Archives The National Register of Archives (Discovery platform) holds more than 32 million descriptions of records held by The National Archives and more than 2,500 archives across the country. Over 9 million records are available for download.

Oxford The Weston Library has circa 2600 manuscript and archive collections relating to Africa and is particularly strong in material relating to the history of British colonial administration. Use their comprehensive African Studies LibGuide to discover more

SOAS - The collections at SOAS (London) reflect the British interaction with Africa and Asia over the last 250 years.

Africa Research Central (in English & French)  An extensive database on African studies archives / libraries / museums and a database of repository wish lists. Provides access conditions, restrictions, important holdings, collection size, year founded, publications, references, related sites. Maintained by Prof. Kathryn Green and Dr. Susan Tschabrun at California State University, Fullerton. 

African Activist Archive The African Activist Archive is preserving and making available online the records of activism in the United States and elsewhere to support the struggles of African peoples against colonialism, apartheid, and social injustice from the 1950s through the 1990s.

Cooperative Africana Materials Project (CAMP)  Based in the USA, CAMP promotes the preservation of publications and archives concerning Sub-Saharan Africa. CAMP also aims to make these materials in microform available to researchers, we hold a subscription, please come and ask us at the issue desk if there is material you would like to access.

International Council on Archives The ICA is dedicated to the effective management of records and the preservation, care and use of the world's archival heritage through its representation of records and archive professionals across the globe. Archives are listed by region, and the organistion includes the following regional branches: 

  • WARBICA - West African Regional Branch

  • CENARBICA - Central Africa Regional Branch

  • ESARBICA - Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Branch

South African History Archive (SAHA) (Johannesburg) SAHA's archival collections are largely made up of documents, posters, photographs, ephemera and oral histories donated to SAHA by individuals and organizations involved in past and ongoing struggles for justice in South Africa.


Dr Audrey Richards (founder of the Centre of African Studies, Cambridge): Her collection of papers concerning anthropological studies in Africa.

For further biographical information on Dr Audrey Richards, please see a blogpost from the LSE Women: Making History series - Audrey Richards – a career in Anthropology

Thanks to our volunteer Ophélia Labardacq, detailed listings of the donated materials and a biography of the Centre for African Studies founder, Dr Audrey Richards, are now available. Access each finding aid by clicking on the following PDF icons, and to hear more about Ophélia's journey with the materials, please see her blogpost :

For information on our other listed collections, please see the Archive collections box to the left!

Digitised archive collections at CAS

Eridadi M. K. Mulira Papers

The African Studies Library houses the collection of Eridadi Medadi Kasirye Mulira (1909–1995) papers in its basement archive.  

Eridadi M. K. Mulira was B/Uganda’s foremost Protestant constitutional thinker in the second half of the twentieth century. 

The collection includes Mulira's plays, essays and autobiographical material.

This collection has been digitised, and comprises of 4,471 images.

The finding aid indicates which items could not be digitised, but are available to be consulted at the Library.

The digital archive is housed on the institutional repository Apollo, which can be accessed here.