African History Collections

Find out more about African History in the IHR Wohl Library. Collection strengths include correspondence from early explorers, as well as official governmental documents. 


The IHR has significant holdings on the history of Africa, in particular works relating to the colonies held by European states. There are large collections of journals and correspondence from early explorers, as well as official governmental documents, expedition reports and ethnographic studies of the continent. In addition, the Library also has holdings documenting the missionary societies and their expeditions to Africa.

Due to the way that the IHR's collection policy complements other local libraries, the African material predominantly centres on the colonial history of the continent. Other libraries with strong holdings on African history are listed in the Other Collections section below. 

The Library's Africa collections are comprised of a multitude of different documents ranging from general histories of the continent, private letters, governmental colony yearbooks, diplomatic memoirs, exploration and documents concerning the process of decolonisation. In addition, the Library also has a series of maps which detail the continent and chart its changing territorial boundaries. 

The Africa collection within the IHR Library holds the classmark CLB, with CCLB the classmark for oversized folio materials. Holdings are then subdivided by geographical region under these classmarks. Several works relating to Africa however, can also be found within the general colonial classmark CG. Relevant materials can also be found across collections. Please note that this collection guide will not cover the history of enslavement in Africa - please instead consult the separate collection guide for the History of Slavery.

Highlights from the Collections

Diaries, Journals and Correspondence

Online Resources

A list of electronic resources available within the Institute’s library can be found here.

Other Collections

Within the IHR

Material relating to the history of Africa can also be found in the Maps, Military and International Relations collections. The Military collection contains extensive holdings detailing the campaigns fought in Africa during the two World Wars while the International Relatons collection also has works of note for African history - for example, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954. vol. 11 Africa and South Asia and African Questions at the Paris Peace Conference: with papers on Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the colonial settlement. Holdings relating to European colonial territiories can also be found in the collections relating to each respective country.

Other Libraries and Institutions

The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Library has a comprehensive collection of relevant materials, as does the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. Senate House Library similarly has extensive holdings relating to the history of the continent. 

Further Help

Contact us if you would like help on finding or using our collections, or if you have any comments or suggestions about the content of this guide. We are happy to help.

You can also book a tour or training session.