Special collections: Commonwealth and African collections


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.

Personal papers

Major collections of personal papers include:

The papers of the Brooke family of Sarawak cover the whole period of Brooke rule in Sarawak (1841–1946).

Trevor Hearl's collection relating to St Helena is a major source for the political, economic and social history of the Atlantic Ocean island.

Organisational papers

Among the archives of organisations are those of:

The single largest collection is that of the Anglican missionary organisation the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which was founded in 1701 and still exists. It was involved in educational and medical work in many parts of the world and the archive is a rich resouce for many areas of research.

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