African printed books and journals

View of Dithakong, the Tlhaping capital in the northern Cape, South Africa, in 1801, by Samuel Daniell
View of Dithakong, South Africa, from African Scenery and Animals, published in 1804-5 by Samuel Daniell (458.h.14).

Our extensive collections of published books and periodicals from and about Africa range from the earliest descriptions of the continent to the latest publications. The collections are strongest for Anglophone countries, but cover the whole continent.

About the collection

Our historical collections include some of the earliest publications from Africa, as well as European travel literature and the writings of medieval Arabic geographers about the continent.

We have past and current research publications across all academic disciplines, published in Africa and other regions of the world.

Books and journals acquired from Africa include:

  • works by scholars, researchers and thinkers
  • reports from non-governmental organisations
  • literary works in European and African languages.

We also have strong collections of government publications from Africa.

What is available online?

You can search our main catalogue Explore the British Library to find African books and journals. Some older books on Africa have been digitised and are available online through this catalogue.

The E-thesis Online Service provides access to PhD theses on Africa from British universities.

Our West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song web presentation showcases some published items in our collections.

Some journal articles and dissertations are now freely available on the internet on an open access basis. African Digital Research Repositories and the African Journal Archive provide free content.

For a digitised database of publications on development issues see Eldis.

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

You can view books, journals and government publications in our Reading Rooms.

As well as hard-copy publications, we hold a wide variety of e-resources which are available in our reading rooms (for licensing reasons, these are not usually available off-site). These include:

  • Africa-Wide, a reference database containing numerous records of books and journals as well as some full-text resources, including newspaper reports
  • African Blue Books, 1821-1953
  • large journal collections, which include the Sabinet collection of South African journals
  • historical databases containing digitised published material, for example Nineteenth Century Collections Online.

What is available in other organisations?

  • To research other UK libraries’ collections use COPAC, the joint catalogue.

How to guides

How to get a Reader Pass if you are Under 18

How to apply for an under-18 Reader Pass