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History: Africa: Primary Sources

Archive & Manuscript Collections


Visual images are included in many books and articles. Several large collections of digital images are searchable, including:

News Digests & Newspapers

The contemporary accounts in newspapers are sometimes used as primary sources. A few newspapers with international coverage in our collection are:

  • The New York Times Archive: 1851-1980 - Search the contents of the newspaper. Full-text online articles are available for free for 1851 to 1922 and 1987-date. For other years, with the date and page number from your search you can locate articles on the library's microfilm - at AP 2.N657 in the Periodicals Area. There is also a printed index to The New York Times in Crumb reference at Ref AI 21.N45

  • The Times (London). We have this important international newspaper on microfilm for 1788-1997. An index is on microfilm at AP 4.T52 (1790-1905) and in paper at Ref AI 21.T46 (1906-1996)

  • News Digests are annual, or more frequent, summaries of significant news. Those in Crumb Library print collection, with call# and years available are:
    • The International Year Book. (Ref AE 5.I64) 1914-1929
    • Britannica Book of the Year. (Ref AE 5.E364) 1940-date
    • Americana Annual. (Ref AE 5.A55) 1951-1974
    • Facts on File Yearbook. (Ref D 410.F3) 1943-2000
    • Keesing's Contemporary Archive. (Ref D 410.K4) 1965-1992
    • Yearbook of World Affairs. (JX 21.Y4) 1958-1984
    • Statesman's Year-book. (JA 51.S7) 1933-date (latest years in Ref.) Chapters on each country of the world.
    • Annual Register of World Events. (Ref D 2.A7) 1958-1979
    • The United States in World Affairs (Council on Foreign Relations) (E 744.U66) 1931-40, 1945-67, 1970
  • African newspapers. African Newspapers Union List is a project to centrally identify African newspapers held in U.S. libraries.

Other publications

Magazines can also be seen as primary sources.

  • The Drum. Published in South Africa from 1951 to 1965. Indexed in Drum: an index to Africa's leading magazine (on paper - DT 1.D794). The magazine itself can be borrowed on microfilm through interlibrary loan.

  • Sources and methods in African history : spoken, written, unearthed.  (DT19 .S68 2003)

  • Non-African magazines published accounts of travels in Africa, and reports on African affairs. These can be located using paper indexes in the Crumb Reference Area, including
    • Poole's Index to Periodical Literature. (Ref AI 3.P7) Covers US and UK magazines, 1802-1906.
    • Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature. (Ref AI 3.R478) Covers mainly US popular magazines, 1890-2006.
    • International Index to Periodicals. (Ref AI 3.R49). Covers English language scholarly journals, 1907-1973
    • Essay & General Literature Index. (Ref AI 3.E752) Covers collections of essays published in books, 1900-1998.
    • Index to Selected Periodicals; continued by Index to Periodical articles by and about Negroes; continued by Index to Periodical articles by and about Blacks. (Ref AI 3.O4) The magazines covered are all English-language, and mainly US publicaitions, 1950-1980.
    Examples: "A Journey in Africa" in Putnam's Monthly, v.10:57 (Sept. 1857) p.296 ; "Cameron's Journey across Africa" Harper's New Monthly Magazine v.54:324 (May 1877) p.866-879 ; "The Men and Brutes of South Africa" North American Review v.68:143 (Apr. 1849) p.265-300 - (online versions from The Making of America collection). The Making of America digital collection has two main parts: Search the Cornell MOA collection; Search the Univ. of Michigan MOA collection. Both focus on 19th century materials.

  • National Geographic Magazine. We have paper copies from 1901 to the present at G1.N27 . Search for articles in this magazine using: National Geographic Magazine Index ; or a printed index at G1.N325.

  • JSTOR has the full text of some journals devoted to Africa: for example Journal of the Royal African Society (1901-1944); and other scholarly journals of African studies.

  • Sub-Saharan Africa: a guide to serials. (Ref DT 348.A1U49). This is a large directory of periodicals "issued in Western languages or in African languages that use the Roman alphabet." It includes monographic series, annual reports, yearbooks, etc; but excludes most African government publications, and newspapers and news magazines. Some of these may be available through interlibrary loan.

Primary Sources Online


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44 Pierrepont Ave
Potsdam, NY 13617