State Archives of Belgium

Our collective memory!

FR | NL | DE | EN
Menu

Colonial archives

Texte petit  Texte normal  Texte grand

The “African Archives” currently being transferred to the National Archives of Belgium 2

The transfer of the so-called “African Archives” from the Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation (hereafter referred to as FPS Foreign Affairs) to the State Archives is currently under way, in accordance with the agreements signed by both parties in 2014 and 2017. These archives, amounting to a total of 9.5 linear kilometres, will be kept at the National Archives of Belgium 2 – Joseph Cuvelier repository (hereafter referred to as NAB 2) repository and shall remain accessible throughout the transfer operations. To date, about 3 linear kilometres of archives have been transferred since 2016.

The fonds already transferred and accessible at NAB 2 –Joseph Cuvelier repository

About 87,000 individual files of the African Personnel

The individual files of the African Personnel conserved at NAB 2 are grouped into four main series:

  • The individual files produced by the Metropolitan Administration, known as the “Métropole” fonds, consisting of 26,809 individual files;
  • The individual files produced by the African Administration, known as the “Colonie” fonds, consisting of 47,272 individual files;
  • The individual files produced by the “Assistance technique belge au Congo” (Belgian Technical Assistance to Congo) in the wake of the Independence, known as the “Kinshasa” fonds, consisting of 2,249 individual files;
  • The “Dossiers généraux et individuels du Personnel d’Afrique” (General and Individual Files of the African Personnel) collection, containing about 10,000 index cards or individual files of the personnel of the Congo Free State. .

Other archival fonds:

  • The “Statut du personnel” (Personnel Statute) fonds of the African Administration;
  • The “Personnel de l'ordre judiciaire” (Judicial Personnel) fonds of the African Administration;
  • The “Cartothèque” (cartographic collection) of the African Administration, containing more than 12,000 maps and plans;
  • The “Bibliothèque” (library) fonds of the Ministry of Colonies;
  • The “Affaires indigènes Ruanda-Urundi” (Indigenous affairs in Ruanda-Urundi) fonds of the Ministry of Colonies;
  • The “Hygiène” (hygiene) fonds of the Ministry of Colonies;
  • The archives of Albert Duren, Health Advisor of the Ministry of Colonies;
  • The individual files of credit applicants of the “Société de Crédit aux Classes moyennes et à l’Industrie (colonat)”;
  • The archives the Legal Advisor of the Ministry of Colonies.

Fonds soon to be transferred to NAB 2

The following fonds are currently being processed (sorting, description/upgradingof archival description, numbering and repackaging):

  • The“Missions” (missions) fonds of the Ministry of Colonies;
  • Individual files of the African Personnel of the Congo Free State and the African Administration, in service until 1918;
  • Individual files of the Auxiliary Staff of the African Administration (Congo);
  • Individual files of the Auxiliary Staff of the African Administration (Ruanda-Urundi);
  • The “Affaires étrangères I” (Foreign Affairs I) fonds of the Congo Free State and the Ministry of Colonies;
  • The “Office de colonisation et crédit au colonat” fonds of the Ministry of Colonies;
  • The “Office colonial” fonds of the Ministry of Colonies.

A major project spanning roughly over a decade

The “African Archives” unit of the State Archives of Belgium is not only in charge of transferring 9.5 linear kilometres of “African archives”, but also of processing 4 linear kilometres of the Belgian Development Cooperation archives and 6 linear kilometres of diplomatic archives. These archives will also be transferredto NAB 2. In total, about 20 linear kilometres of records will be processed over a ten-year period.

Other fonds relating to the Belgian presence in Central Africa (1885-1962) kept at the State Archives of Belgium

Numerous other public and private fonds relating to the Belgian presence in Africa are kept at the NAB 2 repository, for example:

  • Individual files of the “Commission d'indemnisation” (Compensation commission) and the “Commission supérieure d'indemnisation des dommages du Congo” (Congo High Commission of compensation for damages);
  • Individual files of the “Administration de la reconstruction des dommages du Congo” (Administration for the reconstruction of damages in the Congo);
  • Individual files of the “Société de crédit aux classes moyennes et à l’Industrie” (Credit institution for the middle classes and the industry);
  • Archives of the mining company “Union minière du Haut-Katanga” (UMHK);
  • Archives of the railway company “Compagnie des chemins de fer du Congo Supérieur aux Grands Lacs africains”;
  • Archives of the industrial and mining company “Société industrielle et minière du Congo oriental”;
  • Archives of the business and industry holding “Compagnie pour le commerce et l’industrie du Congo” (CCCI) (Finoutremer);
  • Archives of the Belgian-German trade company “Société commerciale belgo-allemande du Congo”.

Other repositories of the State Archives of Belgium, mainly the National Archives of Belgium (Rue de Ruysbroeck/Ruisbroekstraat in Brussels), also include among their collections dozens of fonds related to the Belgian presence in Africa, among which:

  • Archives of the (“Administration provisoire des affaires financières du Congo, du Ruanda et Urundi” (provisional financial administration of Congo, Rwanda and Urundi);
  • Archives of the Ministry of Finance. Central Secretariat (Congo files);
  • Archives of Jules Renquin;
  • Archives of Henri Jaspar;
  • Cabinet archives of Prime Minister Hubert Pierlot in exile in London;
  • Archives of Pierre Wigny;
  • Archives of the (“Institut national pour l’étude agronomique du Congo belge (INEAC)” (National institute for agronomic studies of Belgian Congo);
  • Archives of the “Institut royal colonial belge” (Royal Belgian colonial institute);
  • Archives of the (“Fondation Père Damien pour la lutte contre la lèpre" (Father Damien foundation for the fight against leprosy);
  • Archives of Red Cross of Congo and Red Cross of Belgium.

A research guide devoted to colonial archives provides a more detailed overview of available sources: Congo. Archives coloniales, Brussels, National Archives and State Archives in the Provinces, 2012 (research guides, no. 36). This publication can be downloaded free of charge.

“Decolonisation” measures regarding Belgian public colonial archives undertaken by the State Archives

Reference works

  • An essentiel reference work: the guide to the sources on colonial history to be published in the winter 2019/2020
    Resulting from a close collaboration between the State Archives of Belgium and the AfricaMuseum, this research guide to the archives related to the Belgian colonial past is scheduled to be published both in French and in Dutch in the winter 2019/2020. This voluminous guide will present and contextualise all available archival resources kept on Belgian territory. It is co-edited by Pierre-Alain Tallier, Head of Department at the State Archives of Belgium, and Sabine Bompuku Eyenga-Cornelis of the “Culture and Society” service of the AfricaMuseum. This research tool of roughly 1,500 pages will provide a comprehensive overview of existing sources, as well as of Belgian and foreign archives producers. It is intended to answer researchers’ questions in a user-friendly manner thanks to a functional classification..
  • Bibliography of colonial history
    A bibliography on the colonial history of Belgium (Congo, Rwanda and Burundi) is also currently being finalised (by Sofie Ongena of the Sate Archives of Belgium).
  • In 2012, the State Archives of Belgium already published a research guide about about colonial archives. One year later, it published the proceedings of the colloquium Africa Europe Archives, Requirements? Collaborations? Plans? DR Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Belgium’ : Proceedings of the International Colloquium organized by the State Archives in Belgium and the Royal Museum for Central Africa (15-17/12/ 2010), Bruxelles, Archives générales du Royaume et Archives de l’État dans les provinces,, 2012 (Studia, no. 138).

Training of african archivists

For a decade now, the AfricaMuseum has been training African archivists in collaboration with the State Archives of Belgium as part of a development cooperation agreement. This training includes theoretical courses (initially taught in Belgium, and now at an African university) and an advanced traineeship in Belgium. Within the framework of this advanced trainseeship programme, the State Archives of Belgium welcomes two to three trainees every two to three years.

Project “Rwanda Archives”

The Belgian government has committed to digitally sharing public and private colonial archives about Rwanda kept in Belgium and which are considered as common archival heritage. A delegation of Rwandan experts visited Belgium in August 2019 in ordre to meet with Belgian counterparts (AfricaMuseum, FPS Foreign Affairs and State Archives of Belgium) and to specify their priorities.

Project “Résolution-Métis”

The “Résolutio-Métis” project which started at the State Archives of Belgium in the summer 2019, aims to meet the demands formulated in the Résolution-Métis adopted by the Chamber of Representatives on 29 March 2018 and relating to the segregation from which Métis people suffered under the Belgian colonisation in Africa. This research project is based on a partnership between the State Archives of Belgium and the FPS Foreign Affairs. The work will be carried out in two successive stages: the first phase involves the development of tools designed to help Metis people and their descendants to access information on their background and history; the second phase will focus on the completion of a historical study about Métis born in the course of the Belgian colonisation in Africa and about the responsibility held by the Belgian authorities in the segregation from which they suffered.

Project “FED-tWIN. Belgian colonial archives and history”

This FEDtWIN project is a partnership between the State Archives and Saint-Louis University in Brussels, dedicared to Belgian colonial archives and history. It has been launched in February 2020. A PhD in History, Bérengère Piret, has been recruited and will share his/her time between the two institutions, teaching colonial history, conducting fundamental research and participating in the ongoing transfer and valorisation operations of the “African Archives”.

The Workgroup “African Archives” at the State Archives

National Archives of Belgium 2 – Joseph Cuvelier repository
Rue du Houblon/Hopstraat, 26-28 in 1000 Brussels
agr_ar_2@arch.be
+32 (0) 2 274 15 00

Prof. Dr Pierre-Alain Tallier
Acting Head of Department “Brussels”
Head of Section “Contemporary Archives”
Supervisor of the projects “Résolution-Métis”, “Rwanda Archives” and “FED-tWIN. Belgian colonial archives and history”

Joachim Derwael
Head of National Archives of Belgium 2 – Joseph Cuvelier repository
Head of the “African Archives” unit

Dr Luis Angel Bernardo y Garcia
Archivist
Coordinator of the “African Archives” transfer operations, promotor of the projects “Résolution-Métis” and “Rwanda Archives” projects, supervisor of the “FED-tWIN. Belgian Colonial archives and history” project

Anaïs Bartet
Archives management assistant
“Résolution-Métis”project

Faissal Beddi
Archives management assistant
“African Archives” transfer operations

Papy Ibula Kabaka
Volunteer archivist
“African Archives” transfer operations

Dr Delphine Lauwers
Archivist
Head of “Résolution-Métis” project

Jean-François Meert
Archives management assistant
“African Archives” transfer operations

Prof. Dr Bérengère Piret
Archivist
FED-tWIN. Belgian Colonial archives and history” project

Victoria Prokowska
Volunteer archivist
“African Archives” transfer operations

Prof. Dr Marie Van Eeckenrode
Archivist
Coordinator of “African Archives” transfer operations, supervisor of the project “Résolution-Métis” and “Rwanda Archives”

www.belspo.be www.belgium.be e-Procurement