The Bodleian Library's Commonwealth and African manuscripts and archives comprise the papers of individuals and organisations relating to the history of former British colonies and of Africa. Some of the large collections also contain material on territories outside these areas. They date mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries, but include material from the 17th century onwards. There are around 4000 collections, ranging in size from a single volume to over 1000 boxes and include correspondence, diaries, papers, photographs, lantern slides, posters, artwork, audio-visual and digital material.
Many of the collections were gathered by the Oxford Colonial Records Project, established in 1963 to locate and preserve the papers of former colonial administrators. In 1977 the Oxford Development Records Project was set up to focus on the papers of officials and non-officials involved in development work in the former British dependencies in Africa, particularly in the areas of agriculture, education and medical work.