National Archives – Africa through a lens
Africa through a lens is a set of thousands of images taken from a broader photographic collection of Foreign and Commonwealth Office images, held at The National Archives. Starting with some incredible early photographs from the 1860s, the images span over 100 years of African history. These images are now available, for the first time, to view online.
The collection was brought about by the request of the Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1869. He asked governors to arrange for the taking of photographs of ‘noteworthy buildings and scenery … together with individuals of various races peculiar to the colony’. Each governor interpreted the task in his own way, which has culminated in this unique and varied collection. The original records include what appear to be personal scrapbooks, official albums, printed pamphlets and even framed photographs and paintings. Some images are official public information shots, others are hand drawn sketches. The number of images for each country also varies, depending on how diligently the request was carried out.