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Decolonising the Library

Suggesting Books for Purchase

The Library is committed to ensuring that its collections are balanced, and represent as far as possible the diversity of the student and staff body at Essex and its interests in terms of topics, languages, geographies, etc.

To that end we strongly urge students and staff to assist us in decolonising our book collections. You can do this by suggesting titles that are not in the library that you need for assignments, dissertations or research, by using the book suggestion form

Most suggestions can be acquired quite quickly as ebooks.

If you are an academic and need us to acquire a book for your reading list please login and add it to the relevant Talis reading list(s) and it will be acquired by the reading list team.

E-book collections. Library Projects & Deep Dives

In 2021/22 we had access to around 60 000 ebooks from JSTOR, which is making an effort to broaden its ebook base away from North America - two thirds of its publisher partners are from elsewhere in the world, with Latin America and Africa well represented, and some participatied in the EBA programme that Essex signed up to (including all the publishers in African Books Collective). Foreign language material is also increasing rapidly, particularly in Spanish, German & French.

We are also aware that researchers sometimes need to compare with attitudes & events in the past, which is one of the reasons for purchasing the Taylor & Francis Ebooks Archive (Humanities & Social Sciences) of around 6000 titles published in the period 1800-1980 by Routledge, the major UK academic book publisher. Many of the titles reflect the colonial mindset of those times and will be of interest to researchers needing to explore historical aspects of colonialism and knowledge production. See list of titles:

In summer 2022 the Library purchased a number of Bloomsbury Archive Collections - collections of ebook backlist titles in the social sciences. We focused on acquiring ebook collections from  Zed and I.B. Tauris, two publishers with a long record of publishing on an international range of topics and from an increasingly diverse author list. All titles are listed in library search.

From one of our suppliers, Proquest, the Library acquired access from May-Dec 2021 and April-July 2022 to around 12 000 academic book titles that reflect themes connected to Decolonisation and broader issues of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). These books cover all subject areas, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, with contributions from a much more diverse range of publishers than is usually the case - including many smaller publishers (particularly from Africa). As students and staff discovered and used these titles a purchase was triggered and the Library gained perpetual access to the book. The acquisition of titles is thus driven by the University community as a whole, and is one way of trying to ensure that our collections are relevant to the needs and interests of our users. Nearly 400 ebooks from the list were acquired in this way and are available through Library Search. 

You can see a list of all the titles purchased in the spreadsheet below, with links to online content, and as an online Talis reading list arranged by broad subject area.

Deep Dives

In June and July 2022 our Decolonising the Library Student Champions and a number of Essex student volunteers undertook a "deep dive" into selected areas and identified around 80 titles to help diversify the collections, notably in International Human Rights Law; International Relations Theory; South Asian Literature; Black British Literature. These titles are in library search, and you can explore the titles in the collection here

From January to April 2023 the Library employed two student Frontrunners who worked with students on decolonising the library. They selected South Asia as a particular focus of interest, and identified around 90 titles for adding to the collections, particularly in the fields of law, philosophy, literature, culture, psychology & psychoanalysis

Other Books

These links contain details of book resources across different subject areas relevant to Decolonisation:

Worcester College Oxford around 50 book suggestions to diversify the collections

Publishers & Suppliers

As with journals, it is the case that academic book publishing is largely dominated by large companies (Elsevier, Routledge/Taylor & Francis, Springer, Wiley, etc.) based in Europe or North America, whose personnel and book lists reflect the domination of the West in academic knowledge creation & dissemination.

Recently, many of these publishers (as well as suppliers and aggregators that libraries buy from) have sponsored initiatives and publications around decolonisation, no doubt sensing an opportunity to further increase profits, and in some cases perhaps for nobler motives too.

In April 2023 Cambridge University Press announced that scholars from over 100 low and middle income countries can publish open access free of charge in CUP journals (the Article Processing Charge is waived). This is a pilot scheme running from July 2023 to end 2024. Details available here -

Some publishers have started to add Decolonising the Curriculum as a subject or book series, for example:
Cambridge University Press

Pluto Press (radical/left-leaning press. See also its Black Critique series)

Polity -  to date textbooks covering Sociology and Politics have been published and the library has access to both through Kortext.
It also publishes the Critical South series looking at contemporary critical theory from a decolonial perspective

The University of Cambridge has a useful list of suppliers from or specialising in the Global South.
The international African Institute maintains an excellent list of African publishers

The list below is a tiny sample of some smaller presses that are less well known but may be of interest. Please let us know of others so that we can add them to the list.

Africa World Press/Red Sea Press

African Books Collective - long-standing African owned collective that represents and markets books from African publishers (note that titles from ABC, other than the most recent few years, will become available through our JSTOR EBA from July 2021-

African Diaspora Press - small US-based publisher specialising in African and Black music

Daraja Press - Quebec based publisher specialising in titles relevant to decolonial issues

New Beacon Books - UK based publishers of African and Caribbean fiction and non-fiction since 1966

L'Harmattan - French language publisher with branches in many Francophone African countries, and this is reflected in a more diverse list than most

Hurst Publishers - independent UK publisher with an international focus

IB Tauris - now an imprint of Bloomsbury, but still retains its focus on the Middle East

Litwin Books & Library Juice Press - small US publisher with a number of interesting titles relating to decolonisation, particularly from a libraries & archives research point of view

Multilingual Matters - specialist publisher in language learning with a diverse list of titles, many by authors in the Global South

Oneworld - small UK based publisher with a strong focus on authors from around the world and a global & diverse title list (fiction & non-fiction) 

Peepal Tree Press - specialist in Caribbean and Black British writing

Permanent Black - independent Indian press established 2000 with an interesting list of titles

Saqi - independent publisher, London-based, specialising in the Middle East & North Africa

Small Press Distribution - represents over 400 small presses in the US with a diverse list of subjects (especially Humanities) and titles

Transnational Press London - independent UK press with strong interests in Turkish & Kurdish studies, especially in relation to UK

Of particular historical interest are the Huntley Archives, part of London Metropolitan Archives, and in particular the archive of the Bogle-L'Ouverture publishing venture founded in 1969 by Eric & Jessica Huntley and associated Walter Rodney Bookshop in 1974, which became an important focal point for Black activists & intellectuals