African Blue Books digitised

A collection of African Blue Books has been digitised by Microform Academic Publishers and made available on their British Online Archives database. The collection covers 13 former colonies and protectorates, with volumes dating from 1821 to 1953.

‘Blue Book’ is the name given to the annual statistical reports which governors were required to compile. The books were prepared as pro-formas to be completed in the same way in each colony or protectorate. This attempt at standardisation, allowing volumes to be compared either over time or across geographies, was only partially successful owing to variations in interpretation and the availability of data. Nevertheless, the Blue Books provide the most detailed accounts of the day-to-day concerns and policies of colonial administrators. Alongside statistics, governors sometimes included other material such as maps and even illustrations of plants. Examples can be seen on Cambridge University Library’s Colonial Blue Books web page.

Collections of Blue Books can be found in a small number of libraries across the UK, including in the collections of several Scolma member libraries. The British Online Archives collection covers:

  • Basutoland 1926- 1946
  • Cape of Good Hope 1821- 1909
  • Gambia 1828- 1945
  • Gold Coast 1846- 1939
  • Kenya 1901- 1946
  • Nigeria 1862- 1945
  • Northern Rhodesia 1924- 1948
  • Nyasaland 1904- 1938
  • Sierra Leone 1824- 1943
  • Southern Rhodesia 1906- 1953
  • Tanganyika 1921- 1948
  • Uganda 1901- 1945
  • Zanzibar 1913- 1947

These join other collections in British Online Archives including Colonial and Mission records from West Africa, Universities Mission to Central Africa, and Gold Coast records of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. The database is free to search and browse, but access to documents is by subscription. Registered readers of the British Library have access to these collections from Reading Rooms at St Pancras, London, and Boston Spa, West Yorkshire.

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