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African Studies Library

Your one-stop-shop for all things African Studies at the University of Cambridge & beyond

Archives, Special Collections & Oral History

Dr. Winifred Brown Collection

Marriage & Divorce Law, and Activism with Orphans in Uganda c. 1960-2000.
  • The collection is made up of two boxes, and contains roughly 116 items.

  • You may be interested in this collection if you are researching any of the following topics:

    • Marriage and divorce law in Uganda

    • Orphaned children in Uganda, particularly Sanyu Babies Home

    • Women’s rights in Uganda

    • Makerere University alumni by name c. 1972-1997

  • Notable Documents in the Collection:

    • WB/U/1/10: Photocopy of “Report of the Commission on Marriage, Divorce and the Status of Women 1965” produced by the Ugandan Government - approx. 94 pages

    • WB/U/1/14: Letter addressed to Winifred from the First Lady, Janet K Museveni, regarding thanks for sending them a copy of her work and with reference to UWESO, the orphan charity Mrs. Museveni established - typewritten, 1 page, 28/09/1988

    • WB/U/2/8: Arise: a women’s developmental magazine published by ACFODE - published by Action for Development, Kampala (6 issues) - 1991-1993

Click the PDF collection aid below for more details.

Featured Text on Libraries and Archives

Lost Libraries, Burnt Archives / edited by Sindi-Leigh McBride and Julia Rensing (2023)

  • In their edited volume of short stories, artworks, poems, essays by 22 contributors Sindi-Leigh McBride and Julia Rensing engage with the tragic destruction of the African Studies Library at the University of Cape Town, which occured in April 2021. Read it online free.
  • Find a reference copy in the Library under the Z section - it's classmark is Z675.A55 M33.

Recommendations for improving this page are welcome - email us this link with your thoughts at

African Studies Library Special Collections

  • Viewing the archives and special collections: materials stored in the archive are for consultation in the Library only, and can be fetched by completing a form at the issue desk or by completing a fetching form online in advance of your visit.    

  • Items that need to be fetched are indicated as such on iDiscover by the following location information: African Studies Centre Library : Library Archive Store. See below for an example of what this looks like.

  • Please see the archival collections listed below 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.

Art and other objects in the African Studies Library Archive

“A Year of Farming in Gojjam, Ethiopia” - Unrecorded Ethiopian artist, c. 20th century

This painting was presented to the Cambridge Centre of African Studies at an unrecorded date, by an unrecorded person. It’s lived in the Centre’s Library Archive for at least 8 years according to Centre staff.

For more information about the painting, research process, further readings, and other similar paintings, visit the Library blog website.

Annotations of the painting have been detailed in the Winter 2023 Newsfile published by the Anglo-Ethiopian Society. A copy of this is available in the Library’s archive – classmark (630) 061.2 BOX.

Information prepared by Ben Carson, Senior Library Assistant, on March 15th, 2024.

Eridadi M. K. Mulira Papers

Image of handwritten text - Mulira papers  Image of handwritten text - Mulira papers     


Southern African Collections: a co-curation (Royal Commonwealth Society Collection)

Creating new connections: shared digital curation of the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) southern African collections at Cambridge University Library was a two-year project generously funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York (Nov. 2021 – Dec. 2023). The project aimed to consider and develop approaches to co-production and co-curation using the holdings of the RCS relating to southern Africa. Find nearly 100 digitised documents from its archive there.

Collections in Cambridge

  • Archive Search - use this catalogue to find archival material elsewhere in the University.  You can browse with keywords, and we recommend regions/country names.
  • Buckley Collection (UL) The Buckley collection consists of around 350 19th-century books on central and southern Africa collected by T.E. Buckley and bequeathed to the University in 1903. This collection is on deposit from the Balfour Library, Museum of Zoology. Enquiries to the Rare Books Reading Room.
  • Cambridge University Digital Library (CUDL) hosts stunning images of items held in Cambridge, particularly the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) Collection
  • Churchill Archives Centre Hosts over 600 archive collections, including the Churchill Papers. 
  • 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.
  • Robert Howes donation on the Portuguese revolution and colonial wars (UL) 'Portuguese colonial wars literature features strongly. There are books of fiction and memoirs produced by former Portuguese soldiers about their experiences in the anti-guerrilla wars in Angola, Mozambique and Guiné-Bissau in the 1960s and 1970s.  There are also a few works by African writers, including some major anthologies and academic studies.'
  • Rosenthal Collection (UL) The private research library of Africana formed by the South African historian Eric Rosenthal, acquired in 1987. 18th- 20th century materials, chiefly English, Afrikaans, and German. Please make any enquiries in the Rare Books Reading Room.
  • Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) Collection 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.
  • Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) the archive and library of this society are held within the Rare Books and Manuscripts Departments at the UL.
  • Tasker Collection of Caribbean Fiction (English Faculty Library) : pictured below, this collection was donated to the EFL by Ms. Joyce Trotman. Mrs. Elizabeth Tasker left the collection to Ms. Trotman in her will. Mr. and Mrs. Tasker knew many of the authors featured in the collection, so many of the books contain personal inscriptions etc. 

Tasker Collection of Caribbean Fiction donated to and held in the English Faculty Library

National Archives

  • Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives (AAM, Oxford): Print archives are held in the Bodleian, National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, and Glasgow Caledonian University.  The website includes video, and documents for download.
  • Archives Hub (Online): The Archives Hub provides a gateway to many of the UK's richest historical archives.  Search across descriptions of archives from over 1,000 years of history, held at over 300 institutions across the UK.
  • Black Cultural Archives (South London): Since 1981 Black Cultural Archives (BCA) has embarked on the journey to collect and preserve materials that redress the historical balance and representation of people of African and Caribbean descent in Britain. Its archive collection is now one of the most comprehensive collections that document the history and cultural heritage of Black Britain.
  • The British Library (London): A rich resource for manuscripts and archives relating to Africa in western languages, Arabic, and African scripts and languages.
  • British Empire & Commonwealth Collection (Bristol): 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.
  • June Giavanni PanAfrican Cinema Archive holds more than 10,000 items, including 700 feature films.
  • The National Archives (TNA) - National Register of Archives: This discovery platform holds more than 32 million descriptions of records held by TNA and more than 2,500 archives across the country. Over 9 million records are available for download.
    • African ancestors: This guide provides a brief overview of records and resources at The National Archives that can help you to trace individuals who either migrated to the UK from Africa or who lived in British colonies in Africa before independence and the end of British colonial rule. It is an introduction to the sorts of records we hold, with links to guides providing more detailed advice on how to find the records in our collection.
    • Being and not being (TNA): Extracts from two new plays in development for The National Archives, inspired by multilingual military training materials in Swahili and Hindustani. Being and not being draws from a selection of records from The National Archives' War Office and Colonial Office collections that speak to the multitude of languages through which colonial troops participated in the Second World War, particularly handbooks, training manuals and orders produced in Hindustani and Swahili.
    • Company of Royal Adventurers of England Trading with Africa and successors: Records - These records are predominantly correspondence, financial accounts, minutes and reports relating to all aspects of the Company's business. The Company was one of the main slave traders of the period and many of the volumes record the purchase and sale of slaves, the rate of mortality among slaves on the voyages, accounts of the treatment of runaway slaves, contracts for the supply of slaves to North and South America and the Caribbean, records of the arrival of slaves in London including their number, gender and physical condition and the employment of slaves on the Company's forts.
  • 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 (London): This collection reflect the British interaction with Africa and Asia over the last 250 years.

International Archives and Collections

  • African Art Archive The project is funded by the Swiss National Fund and centers around questions on the production of knowledge on African arts in the Himmelheber archive. The multimedia archive of the art ethnologist gathers more than 930 objects, and 15,000 photographs and films, as well as a rich archive of writings – which is made accessible digitally here for the first time.

  • 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)  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 if there is material you would like to access.

  • Edward Harland Duckworth (1894 -1972) 12,000+ digitised photographic collection at Northwestern University. Duckworth was a British expatriate officer who was the founding editor of Nigeria magazine. Collection consists chiefly of photographic prints and slides documenting early 20th century Nigeria.

  • 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

  • Five Hundred Year Archive (FHYA - 500 Year Archive, Online/Cape Town) - The 500 Year Archive (500YA) is a digital research platform developed by the Five Hundred Year Archive (FHYA) research initiative, a project of Archive and Public Culture (APC), based at the University of Cape Town. It allows users to engage with a rich variety of resources pertinent the last five hundred years of southern African history. Its purpose is to support historical research into these neglected eras and to encourage the digitisation and the sharing of resources across a network of institutions. It also aims to build a public community of users who are passionate about southern African history and who are interested in the complex forces which shape that history over time.

  • Ross Archive of African Images (Online) - Established in 2010, the James J. Ross Archive of African Images (RAAI) contains approximately 5000 images of figurative African art published before 1921. RAAI is the result of an eight-year collaboration between James J. Ross and Susan Vogel, the project's co-directors. The Archive aspires to include all figurative African objects in books, periodicals, catalogues, and other publications appearing prior to 1921 - the oldest dates to 1591.

  • South African History Archive (SAHA, Johannesburg) - These 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.

  • Sudan Open Archive (Online) - The Sudan Open Archive offers free digital access to knowledge about all regions of Sudan. It is an expanding, word-searchable, full-text database of historical and contemporary books and documents. The current version, SOA 4.0, includes two new special collections: the first thirty-two volumes of Sudan Notes and Records, Sudan’s flagship scholarly journal, and the collected papers of the late Sudan scholar, Richard Gray.

Digital Oral History Resources

  • African Oral History Archive : A non-profit initiative started by the Ichikowitz Family Foundation dedicated to African story-telling, to the safeguarding of the continent’s dynamic heritage for future generations.
  • AFAS Oral History Project (Washington University in St. Louis) : "This collaboration between WU faculty, graduate students and undergraduates and the people who lived through these important historical eras is creating a unique historical record that offers new perspectives on African history while helping individual informants better preserve their own life stories for themselves and their descendants."
  • African Union's Centre for Linguistic and Historical Studies by Oral Tradition (CELHTO) : "This is a specialised technical agency of the African Union and aims to contribute to Africa’s integration and development by providing analysis on African history, societies and culture. Its main mandate is to work for the recovery of the continent’s autonomy from external cultural visions by affirming a cultural identity that promotes the integration and development of the continent."
  • Being and not being (TNA): Extracts from two new plays in development for The National Archives, inspired by multilingual military training materials in Swahili and Hindustani. Being and not being draws from a selection of records from The National Archives' War Office and Colonial Office collections that speak to the multitude of languages through which colonial troops participated in the Second World War, particularly handbooks, training manuals and orders produced in Hindustani and Swahili.
  • Columbia's African oral tradition, history, and literature project : This is an incredible curated list of resources available by country:
    • Oral History Sources
    • Oral Tradition Sources
    • Tales and Proverbs
  • Commonwealth Oral History Project : The aim of this AHRC funded project is to produce a unique digital research resource on the oral history of the Commonwealth since 1965. When completed, it will include at least 60 major interviews with leading figures in the recent history of the organisation.
  • Digital Benin - Oral History : "This is to tell our story as Benin people, the way we want it to be told. Benin people teach and learn about their history and culture through oral accounts passed down from one generation to another. These accounts have been preserved for centuries."
  • Historical Society of Pennsylvania's African Oral History Project : "During 2000-2001, the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies collected the personal histories of African immigrants living in the Philadelphia area. Each interviewee represents different African nationalities and different immigrant experiences."
  • iDiscover (Cambridge's Digital Library Catalogue) : Returns 500+ results for Oral History in Africa
  • LOATAD Oral Archive : In November 2020, LOATAD was honoured to receive a grant from the Goethe-Institut Ghana to deliver our Women Speaking Women (WSW) project, the sister project of Women Reading Women. Whereas the latter focusses on collecting oral recordings of published works by African women writers, Women Speaking Women is concerned with formalising African women’s 𝘶𝘯𝘸𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘯 stories by recording them and making them available in the library, and as part of the archive, placing them on a par with written literature and recognising traditional forms of African storytelling as worthy of preservation.
  • National Museum of African American History & Culture : "We collect and preserve oral histories from iconic elders of African Americana and others who have shaped the culture in significant ways. We also develop oral history projects that support the research and exhibition goals of the Museum."
  • Oral History Association of South Africa : " OHASA promotes and protects archives from previously marginalised communities in order to bring about redress. The seed that brought about the birth of OHASA was planted in 1999 when the then Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology (DACST) was mandated by Cabinet to conceptualise and spearhead the National Oral History Programme (NOHP) for South Africa."
  • The Palgrave Handbook of African Oral Traditions and Folklore (Cambridge eLegal Deposit Access) : "Assesses the current and historical dynamics between oral traditions and folklore, illustrating how the nature of oral transmission of cultural heritage and folklore is simultaneously vital to the livelihood of tradition while also at the heart of the issues that surround their diminished role in an increasingly globalized society."
  • Recordings from Africa: Discover audio recordings in the form of story telling and music from every country on the continent.
  • South African History Archives : "The collections include the substantial collection of interviews with over 260 South African anti-apartheid activists and leaders, undertaken by Julie Frederikse between 1979 - 1990."

Books in the African Studies Library

Searching "oral history" using the African Studies Library filter returns 86 results. Below are a few of the top results.

Recommendations for Oral History resources welcome - email us this link with your thoughts at

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