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Africanist Archival Research in Brussels

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 May 2014

Carol Dickerman
Affiliation:
University of Wisconsin-Madison
David Northrup
Affiliation:
Boston College

Extract

Belgian archives and libraries contain essential collections of sources for the history of central Africa, although locating and gaining access to materials can be difficult, if not impossible. We hope that by describing our triumphs and failures in using these facilities in 1980/81 we can simplify these tasks for future researchers. This survey, like others existing in English, is less than complete, having been conceived only after we completed our separate research in Belgium and thus reflecting the limitations of our particular research interests. Nevertheless, the breadth of our familiarity with the facilities and of our individual interests (Dickerman worked on the history of Burundi's capital Bujumbura; Northrup on African labor in the former Province Orientale of Zaire) seems sufficient to justify this note.

In general it must be said that access to archival materials in Belgium is fairly restricted. The worst case is the Archives du Gouvernement-Général, Léopoldville/Kinshasa, the largest and most important collection for the history of the Belgian Congo. These records, estimated to occupy five to seven kilometers of shelf space, were removed from the colony just before independence and are now housed in the Archives Générales du Royaume (2-6, rue de Ruysbroek, Brussels). However, as a consequence of legal efforts by the government of Zaire to recover all or part of the collection, it has remained totally closed to all researchers.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © African Studies Association 1982

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References

1. We wish to thank the Fulbright-Hays Commission and the Social Science Research Council for support of our research in Belgium.

2. Ironically, the most complete guide to African materials in Belgian archives is concerned only with those small quantities of materials dealing with West Africa: Carson, Patricia, Materials for West African History in the Archives of Belgium and Holland (London, 1962).Google Scholar Brief archival guides appear in Gann, L.H. and Duignan, Peter, The Rulers of Belgian Africa 1884-1914 (Princeton, 1979) 237–39Google Scholar, and their Colonialism in Africa 1870-1960, vol. V: A Bibliographical Guide to Colonialism in Sub-Saharan Africa (Cambridge, 1973), 4244.Google Scholar

3. The Ministère des Colonies, which was created out of the Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, was later called the Ministère du Congo Beige et Ruanda-Urundi and when it abruptly ceased operations in 1960 was known as the Ministère des Affaires Africaines.

4. Van Grieken, E. and Van Grieken-Taverniers, M., “Les archives inventoriées au Ministère des Colonies,” Mémoires de l'Académie royale des sciences coloniales, Classe des Sciences morales et politiques, n.s. 12(1958)Google Scholar, and Van Grieken-Taverniers, M., “Archives” in Livre Blanc (Brussels, 1962), 5768.Google Scholar

5. For examples see Kirk-Greene's, A.M.H. review in Africa 50 (1980), 433–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

6. Van Grieken-Taverniers, M., “Inventaire des Archives des affaires étrangères de l'Etat Indépendant du Congo et du Ministère des Colonies (1885-1914),” Mémoires de l'Académie royale des sciences coloniales, Classe des sciences morales et politiques, n.s. 9(1955).Google Scholar

7. Louis, Wm. Roger, Ruanda-Urundi 1884-1919 (Oxford, 1963), 265–66.Google Scholar

8. Inventaire des archives historiques du Musée royal du Congo Belge à Tervuren,” Bulletin de l'Institut Royal Colonial Belge, 25(1954), 799821.Google Scholar

9. Luwel, Marcel, “Inventaire des documents provenant de la mission Frantz Cornet au Congo (1948-49) et conservés au Musée royal de l'Afrique centrale à Tervuren,” Mémoires de l'Académie royale des Sciences d'Outre-Mer, Classe des sciences morales et politiques, n.s. 24(1960).Google Scholar

10. Cosemans, A., “Les Archives générales du Royaume au point devue de la documentation historique coloniale,” Bulletin de l'Institut Royal Colonial Belge, 25(1954), 652–66.Google Scholar

11. Gann, and Duignan, , Rulers of Belgian Africa, 237.Google Scholar

12. For other private company archives see Peemans, Françoise and Lefevre, Patrick, Les sociétés coloniales belge: archives et données bibliographiques (1885-1960) (Cahiers du CEDAF, 4/5) (Brussels, 1980).Google Scholar See now Bakonzi, Agago, “The Archives of the Gold Mines of Kilo-Moto,” HA, 9(1982).Google Scholar

13. E.g., de Craemer, Willy, “The Congo/Zaire Archive of the Northern (Flemish) Belgian Province in Brussels, Belgium,” HA, 4(1977), 287–90.Google Scholar

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