British Empire & Commonwealth Collection – Bristol Archives

Bristol Archives logo and image

The British Empire & Commonwealth Collection, based at Bristol Archives, is a substantial archive documenting the history of countries in the former empire from the late 19th century to recent times.

This unique resource includes objects, artworks, photographs, films, papers and sound archives. These were donated by British people who lived and worked in many parts of the former empire and Commonwealth and reflect their occupations and interests.

The collection provides insights into diverse lives and landscapes. We are working to make this material available for people worldwide to examine difficult, forgotten or hidden histories from their own perspectives. We also actively use the collection in exhibitions and community-led projects, and are continuing to collect new material. You can visit our website to find out more and search our catalogue here.

The Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York

University of York crest

The Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York holds a wide variety of archives relating to southern Africa, and relate mostly to the period following the Second World War. Zimbabwe and Zambia and certain aspects of South Africa are particularly well represented in the archives, although Botswana, Angola, Mozambique and Namibia are also included in the scope of the holdings.

Notable archives include the archives of Patrick Duncan (anti-apartheid activist) and his father, Sir Patrick Duncan (Governor-General of South Africa), the Capricorn Africa Society, Professor Dennis Brutus (poet and anti-apartheid campaigner, including material on SAN-ROC), Joost de Blank (archbishop of Cape Town), Vivian Oury (director of the Mozambique Company including the port of Beira and Zambezi bridge and railway), copies of diaries and articles of the novelist and poet, Naomi Mitchison, and the papers of Marion, Lady Chesham referring to Tanzanian politics. Recent accessions include the papers of Michael Young on the clandestine peace talks held at Mells Park.

Institute of Commonwealth Studies Library at Senate House Library, University of London

The Institute of Commonwealth Studies Library was formed in 1949. It is a research level library concentrating on the Commonwealth as an organisation; international relations of Commonwealth countries; and constitutional, political, demographic, social and economic development within the Commonwealth as a whole, and among individual member countries outside the UK. The Institute of Commonwealth Studies Library is a major resource for those working on the Commonwealth as a whole, or on any of its member states, in the fields of history, politics and international relations, agriculture, education, the environment, and social questions. It is the only research-oriented Library in London focussing on the Commonwealth.


The Library collects material from and about all Commonwealth African nations. Historical coverage of Africa generally extends back only as far as the commencement of British administration, though materials of particular relevance to the nineteenth-century are collected along with important titles relating to the Atlantic slave trade. The Library holds national responsibility for collecting English-language social science materials on Gambia, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda under the SCOLMA area specialisation scheme. Other strengths include official publications, material on human rights, and coverage of apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa.


The library holds an important collection of political pamphlets and ephemera, largely concentrated on the 1970s and 1980s and houses special collections including the United Africa Company Public Relations Office Library which includes books on West Africa from the 18th and 19th centuries, the John Gallagher collection of pamphlets and working papers on Lesotho, and archive collections including the papers of Ruth First, Baruch Hirson and a number of other anti-apartheid activists, and the papers of the scholar Michael Crowder and journalist Jack Halpern.


The Library is now part of the Senate House Library, University of London.