Ajami Research Guide"Ajami is a modified Arabic script that has been used for centuries to write many African languages including (but not limited to: Afrikaans (Arabic-Afrikaans), Fula, Hausa, Malagasy, Mandinka, Swahili, Wolof (Wolofal), and Yoruba." This library guide highlights ajami collections within Boston University; please note that most are not pre-colonial texts.
[Chad / Niger / Nigeria] Old Kanembu Islamic Manuscripts - SOAS"The digital collection of Old Kanembu manuscripts provides an online access to one of the earliest written sub-Saharan languages in manuscript form. Old Kanembu written in Arabic script was a language of Qur’anic interpretation in the ancient Borno Sultanate. It has survived in marginal and interlinear annotations in the early Qur’an manuscripts dating from the 17th to 19th centuries and in various other religious texts dating from the 19th century to 1980’s... "
[Mali] Exhibit: Ancient Manuscripts from the Desert Libraries of Timbuktu - Library of Congress"These ancient manuscripts cover every aspect of human endeavor. The manuscripts are indicative of the high level of civilization attained by West Africans during the Middle Ages and provide irrefutable proof of a powerful African literary tradition.... These manuscripts, surviving from as long ago as the fourteenth century, are remarkable artifacts important to Malian and West African culture. The exhibited manuscripts date from the sixteenth to eighteenth century.
The manuscripts on view are from the Mamma Haidara Commemorative Library and the Library of Cheick Zayni Baye of Boujbeha, two of the most noteworthy institutions in the Timbuktu area. As part of its continuing effort to create a universal collection of recorded knowledge from all geographic areas and all historical eras, the Library of Congress is particularly proud to have the opportunity to exhibit these important cultural artifacts from Mali. The Library is also pleased that copies of these manuscripts will be deposited in its collections and will be available for use by researchers and scholars."
[Mali] Tombouctou Manuscripts ProjectEstablished in 2003 to research and document manuscript tradition in Africa.
"Researchers are involved in the ongoing translation of materials from the Ahmed Baba and Mamma Haidara collections. Thus far, due to researchers’ individual areas of focus, there has been an emphasis on the translation of manuscripts related to fatawa (Islamic legal rulings), Sufi practises and women. A collection of these translations are in preparation for publication.
Registered users can access manuscript translations via the Database."
[Nigeria] National Archives Kaduna, Arabic Manuscript Collected from Northern Nigeria [18th century-20th century]"The Arabic Manuscript Collection range in date from the early 18th century to the early colonial era or specifically to the 1930s, and they include local chronicles, private correspondence, legal documents, and religious literature. Within the Arabic Manuscript Collection there are series of records collected from specific parts of Northern Nigeria like Kaduna, Sokoto and Kabba. Extent and format of original material: 15,925 items in paper format."
EuropeanaEuropeana Collections provides access to over 50 million digitised items – books, music, artworks and more – with sophisticated search and filter tools
Internet Archive"The Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, we provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, the print disabled, and the general public. Our mission is to provide Universal Access to All Knowledge."
Early Maps of Africa
Afriterra Online Map CollectionThe Afriterra library is the most complete assembly in North America for original rare maps focused on early Africa.
Some facts about the collection:
5,000 original rare maps, engravings, archive papers and rare book text and references, covering seven languages (English, Latin, Dutch, French, German, Portuguese, and Italian).
Dates of origin from 1480 to 1900.
Palm-size to wall-size; small regional scale to continental scale
Maps of mountains, deserts, scenes, villages, and pathways.
Maps of Rivers: Gambia, Senegal, Niger, Congo, Orange, Zambezi, and Nile.
Maps and Description of Regions: Gambia, Senegal, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Gold Coast, Ivory Coast, Slave Coast, Grain Coast, Cameroon, Zaire, Angola, South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Nubia, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Timbuktu.
Locations of Kingdoms: Songhay, Asante, Dahomey, Oyo, Jolof, Dyula, Benin, Ife, Gao, Mali, Aja, Kong, Abrong, Mossi, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Vili, Borno, Akan, Ghana, Ewe, Dagomba, Kasanje, Tuareg, Sahel, Mbundu, Zulu.
Locations of Slave trade sites: Arguin, Goree, St. Louis, De los, Sherbro, Bance, Whydah, Elmina, Anomabe, Lagos, Bonny, Calabar, Biafra, Benguela, Loango, Cabinda, Luanda, St. Thomas, Fernando Po.
Pre-1885 Maps of AfricaMaps showing "the continent prior to the Berlin Conference of 1885, when the most powerful countries in Europe at the time convened to make their territorial claims on Africa and establish their colonial borders at the start of the New Imperialism period."
Southern Africa before Colonial Times -- by John Wright"Perspectives on southern Africa’s past in the eras before the establishment of European colonial rule have been heavily shaped by political conflicts rooted in South Africa’s history as a society of colonial settlement. The archive of available evidence—archaeological finds, recorded oral materials, and colonial documents—together with the concepts used to give them meaning are themselves products of heavily contested historical processes..."
Primary Historical Sources in Archaeology: Methods -- Rachel KingArticle - from summary: "While there are a handful of defined methods for working with primary historical sources in archaeology, few archaeologists take these as their main points of departure or rely upon them too rigidly. This is to do both with the highly variable nature of the historical and archaeological material available for certain African contexts, and also with how archaeologists conceive of the relationship between these two bodies of evidence: as antagonistic, supplementary, entangled and subjective, mutually creative, and so on. Some methodologies focus on the potentials for consonance and dissonance between written and material sources. Others utilize oral traditions to provide insights into chronology, memory, historical and political dynamics, and the material aspects of these...."
The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record: Pre-Colonial Africa: Society, Polity, CultureThe Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record - by Jerome S. Handler and Michael L. Tuite Jr.
A project of The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and The Digital Media Lab at the University of Virginia Library
"The 1,280 images in this collection have been selected from a wide range of sources, most of them dating from the period of slavery. This collection is envisioned as a tool and a resource that can be used by teachers, researchers, students, and the general public - in brief, anyone interested in the experiences of Africans who were enslaved and transported to the Americas and the lives of their descendants in the slave societies of the New World."
The Lost Kingdoms of Africa (BBC)British art historian Dr Gus Casely-Hayford explores the pre-colonial history of some of Africa's most important kingdoms, including:
the Asante, the Berbers, the Bunyoro & Buganda and the Zulu. **Note: some episodes not currently available for viewing online on the website itself; try BBC's YouTube channel for clips.