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New book helps to locate all colonial archives in Belgium

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29/09/2021 - Research - Publications - National Archives 2 - Joseph Cuvelier repository

The State Archives and the Royal Museum for Central Africa have published a source guide to the history of colonisation. This new publication identifies and locates all archives available in Belgium dating from the colonial period of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. The book in two volumes is also accessible online.

The archives relating to Central Africa during the colonial period are still insufficiently known. Researchers and the wider society are calling for (better) access to the 'colonial archives', but so far there is no tool to identify and locate all sources available in Belgium. Yet, in more than 80 repositories in Belgium, almost 20 kilometres of archives relating colonisation can be found.  

A 'GPS for colonial archives'

The source guide for the history of colonisation is therefore a crucial step forward in the identification and description of the archives on Congo Free State (1885-1908), Belgian Congo (1908-1960) and Rwanda-Urundi ([1916] 1923-1962).

The French-language guide is a kind of GPS for the colonial archives and enables citizens and researchers - from anywhere in the world - to find out exactly who is keeping what on Belgian territory. In this way, this guide meets a triple need: scientific, societal and memorial.

More than 1500 entries on almost 2300 pages provide a description and contextualisation of all colonial archives and collections, their interest for research and links with other archives and collections. The guide is accompanied by an extensive historiographical overview and offers starting points for tracing sources on the Belgian colonisation held abroad. Hundreds of illustrations highlight the importance of iconographic sources.

The work of more than 30 archivists and historians

The book is the result of a long collaboration between the State Archives and the Royal Museum for Central Africa and was written by more than thirty archivists and historians, under the direction of Pierre-Alain Tallier, Marie Van Eeckenrode and Patricia Van Schuylenbergh.

More info

The guide is published by Brepols, with the support of the Federal Science Policy (Bespo) and the University Foundation of Belgium. The book is on sale for 65 € at the shop of the National Archives. You can order it via (+ shipping costs).

Thanks to funding from Belspo, a digital version is also made available in open access.

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