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African Studies Research Guide: Primary Sources

Reviews primary sources at Emory and elsewhere for research in African Studies, emphasizing African history.

Missionary & Travel Resources

Missionary & Travel Resources


The records and publications of missionaries and explorers are important for African history. Individual autobiographes and other published work are generally listed in  discoverE under the name of the individual author or organization.


Specialized Guides and Reference Books:



Christian Missions in Africa, a libguide being developed by the University of Pennsylvania.

The Church in Africa 1450-1950 by Adrian Hastings (Theol. BR1360 .H364 1994) is an important work on Christian missionary activity . An electronic version is available to the Emory community. Includes an extensive bibliography and section on maps. Updated by A History of African Christianity, 1950–1975. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1979. (BR1360 .H366 also in Theol.)

 Dictionary of African Christian Biography(Boston University)

International Mission Bibliography: 1960-2000 by Norman E. Thomas.(Theol.Ref. Z7817 .I58 2003 )

Lists the most important works in all areas of missionary disciplines. The section on Africa has 1,375 annotated entries covering the history, publications, and archives of various missionary groups. Includes an extensive index of names.This is a key resource for identifying and using missionary primary resources.

Missionary and World Christianity Research Guide. (Yale University)

Missionary Periodicals Database (Yale University) aims to record all periodicals on foreign missions published in Britain, between the eighteenth century and the 1960s, by missionary societies and commercial publishers, giving full bibliographical details, information on contents and locations.

An important database that contains descriptions of more than 400 collections accumulated in Britain by individuals and societies engaged in the overseas missionary movement between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. The holdings of over 40 institutions in the United Kingdom are represented. A wide-variety of search tools are included including map searching which allows you to locate mission groups working in various African regions.

White Men's God: the Extraordinary Story of Missionaries in Africa. Ballard, Martin. Greenwood. 2008. BV3500 .B24 2008 Theology Sets missionary story in larger political context.

WOMEN TRAVELERS, EXPLORERS AND MISSIONARIES TO AFRICA: 1763-2002 lists accounts of travels published in English. This can be used together with the print Semper ex Africa…A Bibliography of Primary Sources for Nineteenth-Century Tropical Africa as Recorded by Explorers, Missionaries, Traders, Travelers, Administrators, Military Men, Adventurers and Others (Z3501 H37) to locate published accounts.

World Survey of Islamic Manuscripts edited by Geoffrey Roper. London:Brill, 1991-1994 . (Z6611.I84W96  )See Also Arabic Manuscripts from West Africa Online catalog at Northwestern University.


Yale University Divinity School Library is a world-renowned collection documenting world Christianity and the history of the missionary movement. SEE ITS Missionary and World Christianity Research Guide.


Oxford Bibliographies:African Studies has several sections of interest: African Christianity; African Traditional Religion which cover scholarship on these topics.


Also Important :

African Research and Documentation. DT19.8.A35 contains many articles about mississionary archives including

"A Guide to Africa ist Research in the Archive of the American Baptist Historical Society,"   No. 111, 2009, pp 21-29.

"Go Ye Into the World: Missionary Archives in the School of Oriental and African Studies, 2005, no. 98, pp. 41-68.

"Feature: Christian Missions in South Africa," South African Historical Journal, vol 61, Issue 2, 2009. (DT776 .S585).

"Christian Mission Stations 1792-1914," Chapter 53, Historical Atlas of Africa, (Ref. atlas G2446 S1H5 1985) features maps showing the location of mission stations throughout Africa as well as the spread of Islam.

"The Location of Christian Missions in Africa,"  Hildegard Binder Johnson, Geographical Review , Vol. 57, No. 2 (Apr., 1967), pp. 168-202
International Mission Photography Archive(University of Southern California) offers historical images from Protestant and Catholic missionary collections in Britain, Norway, Germany, France, Switzerland, and the United States. The photographs, which range in time from the middle of the nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth century, offer a visual record of missionary activities and experiences in Africa, China, Madagascar, India, Papua-New Guinea, and the Caribbean.

Henry Martyn Centre for Mission Studies, Westminster College, Cambridge holds some 2,000 photographs dating from the late 19th century chiefly covering Egypt, Sub-Saharan Africa and India. Images cover not only the work of missionaries in fields such as preaching, conversion, education and medicine, but also illustrate the lands and the people of the nations in which they served, providing a valuable research tool for many academic disciplines. Some have been digitised and are available on their archive webpages.

Missionary Settlements in South Africa, 1800-1925, South African History Online (SAHO) compiled by Franco Frescura. A study of missionary settlement and the spread of Christianity in southern Africa during the period 1800 - 1925, including a piece on the role of missionaries, a list of mission stations, and case studies of individual mission stations.



Selected Collections at Emory:


The Woodruff Library has extensive holdings of the records of the Church Missionary Society, the Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, Regions Beyond Missionary Union, the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and the Sudan United Mission (SUM). Search EUCLID under name of organization or explorer. Many large collections are in microform. Most microfilm holdings are also listed in Emory Microfilm Gateway

EMORY MICROFILM GATEWAY  includes annotated listings for major microfilm sets in the Woodruff Library only. Look under the categories "Africa," "Religion," and "Slavery.  Not complete. Update though using EUCLID. NOTE: A number of the microform collections have been digitized in British Records on the Atlantic World, 1700-1900  , Archives Unbound, and British Online Archives.

Currently the only way to reach the Microfilm Gateway is to type direct addresses into your web browser:

For overall category list type: (Note: This allows you to browse subjects but the links will not work. You must type in the individual URLs below.)



Slavery: American:

Slavery: British:

 Woodruff microforms are found on Level 1 which also houses readers and printers.

Papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. (Theology microfilm BV2360 A4)Harvard Guide;  Reel List

The Pitts Theology Library holds a large collection representing the missionary activity of the Methodist Church in both print and microform. Many holdings can be located by doing a EUCLID search under " Methodist Episcopal Church Missions Africa." Also check the Pitts web page Sub-Saharan African Collections .

Abolition & Emancipation (Micfilm 3143) is an on-going microform collection which includes the papers of Thomas Clarkston, William Wilberforce and other individuals or organizations active in the anti-slavery movement. Print and digital guides are available.

Africa Through Western Eyes (Micfilm 3948) is an ongoing microfilm collection which contains large numbers of small collections of papers of explorers, traders, tourists, diplomats, soldiers and missionaries from the 19th through the early 20th centuries. Print and Digital Guides available.

Archives Unbound contains a variety of topical collections which have been digitized including Archives Unbound, Evangelism in Africa: Correspondence of the Board of Foreign Missions, 1835-1910  Presbyterian mission work in Africa commenced in 1833 and throughout the l9th century expanded to several different areas therein. These included: Liberia, 1833-94; Corsico, 1850-75; Spanish Guinea, 1865-1924, 1932: Gaboon, 1871-92; Ogowe, 1874-92; and the Cameroon, 1889-1972.

British Records on the Atlantic World, 1700-1900: Contains Early colonial and missionary records from West Africa , Papers of Thomas Perronet Thompson relating to Sierra Leone, Papers of the Company of Scotland Trading to Africa and the Indies, 1694-1709, The papers of William Davenport & Co., 1745-1797 and Records relating to the slave trade at the Liverpool Record Office.

Church Missionary Society Archive (CMS) (micfilm 3309; Section IV is Africa but also look in General sections)  About 2/3 of the CMS archives has been filmed.  More info about CMS Archives. 1896 Map of CMS missions in Africa and explorers. You will find other missionary archives listed at (paste into your browser)

Empire Online features a wide variety of material including: exploration journals and logs; letter books and correspondence; periodicals; diaries; official governmentpPapers; missionary papers; travel writing; slave papers; memoirs; folk tales; exhibition catalogues and guides; Maps; Photographs; and Illustrations for the British Empire. Not limited to Africa.

Gold Coast records from the archives of the USPG, 1886-1951 (also microfilm 4042 Woodruff Library) Guide

Monumenta Missionaria Africana. Africa Ocidental, first and second series by Antonia Brasio (BV 3500 .B67 & BV3500 .B672) is a multivolume set documenting the history of the Catholic Church in Africa. Considered to be a standard source documenting European activities in Africa prior to 1700.

Travel Descriptions of South Africa 1711-1938 is an extensive collection of published explorer's accounts in microfiche (Microfiche 1569). Each account is also individually cataloged in EUCLID.

Slavery, Abolition and Social Justice, 1490-2007 is an important portal for slavery and abolition studies, bringing together original manuscripts and rare printed material from libraries and archives across the Atlantic world for the period 1490-2007. Close attention is being given to the varieties of slavery, the legacy of slavery, the social justice perspective and the continued existence of slavery today.

Universities' Mission to Central Africa

William Wiberforce: Slavery, Religion and Politics (Micfilm 4003) contains papers from the Bodleian Library, Oxford, Wilberforce House, Hull, etc. Print and digital guides available.


HINT: There are numerous other anti-slavery collections of interest. Check discoverE for holdings and look for other research guides in African-American Studies. Emory is also a member of the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) a consortial lending library of rarer materials. CRL collections include missionary materials in a variety of formats.  See Topic guide for Religion/Philosphyand African Studies. All CRL materials can be borrowed by Emory researchers or used online.