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Decolonising the Library


Archives are often a site for complicated or contested meanings, with many collections existing directly or indirectly as a result of colonisation. Scholars are coming together to look at how existing archives can be read decolonially, and digitisation is seen as a powerful tool for making these (primarily European) archives available to researchers in Africa & Asia - the continents to which so many of the collections relate.

A useful brief starting point is Christine Megowan's poster

The British Library's Endangered Archives Programme facilitates the digitisation of archives around the world that are in danger of destruction, neglect or physical deterioration, with the aim of capturing "forgotten and still not written histories, often suppressed or marginalised. It gives voice to the voiceless: it opens a dialogue with global humanity’s multiple pasts"

University of Essex Collections

Lord Alport held senior positions in London and Africa in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, and his papers contain important material relating to the consequences of end of Empire in Africa (notably Rhodesia/Zimbabwe).

In connection with Zimbabwe, The Tony Rich Archive, dealing with the rise of the nationalist movement 1963-1980, is also of interest.

The National Social Policy & Social Change (Qualidata) collection includes research material collected by David Smith (Policy Studies Institute) in 1981 relating to police community relations in London, including participant observation with the Black community in South London at the time of the 1981 Brixton Riots. The UK Data Archive has digitised the interview transcripts, register with UKDA to request access to them.

Other UK Collections

Use the Archives Hub portal to track down special collections and archives in the UK that could be relevant to research on various aspects of decolonising.

Significant archives include:

Other guides to archives that may be useful for historical research:

Mandy Banton Administering the Empire, 1801-1968: a guide to the records of the Colonial Office - available as an open access e-book