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History, Africa

An overview of resource available through the Ryerson University Library for the study of the History of Africa. It covers the modern period (Colonial and Post-Colonial) as well as the pre-colonial period prior to 1850.

RU Library Catalogue

RU Library Catalogue searches for books, e-books, dvds, and other resources. It is a good place to look for known books, or when using the keyword search to find some relevant titles for an assignment. When you find a good title, open the catalogue record in order to identify the assigned Library of Congress subject headings that can be used to identify similar works.


Be specific.  If you want to information related to a topic in a specific geographical entity such as a country (eg. Kenya), region (eg. Africa, North; Horn of Africa) or linguistic groups (eg. Africa, French-speaking), use the specific name or phrase (Kenya, "Africa North", "Horn of Africa", "Africa French-speaking") rather than the more general term Africa. Use these in conjunction with topical keywords such as: history, women, social conditions, politics.

Avoid using as a keyword African by itself as many of the returns will be for African American topics. Phrases such as "South African" "East African" "Central African" "African diaspora" or "African languages" may all be more useful. Once you find a good item, look at the complete catalogue record in order to find the Library of Congress subject headings that are assigned to the item and use these and/or similar headings to find relevant works.

Try using truncated searches that use the *[asterisk] wildcard.  For example, egypt* will find the country name Egypt, as well as words beginning with the five letters egypt. This search will include Egypt's, Egypte, Egyptian, Egyptians, Egyptologist, and, Egyptology..

If searching for a geographic entity that has changed names, use the Boolean operator OR to search for variant names in one search. (eg. Tanzania OR Tanganyika, Madagascar OR "Malagasy republic", Zimbabwe OR Rhodesia)

RU Library Search Everything

RU Library Search Everything This search engine searches for books and audio-visual materials that are also listed in the library's catalogue, as well as journal articles (chiefly those that are available electronically), theses and dissertations, newspaper coverage from some recent and a selection of archival newspapers, and digitized content such as out-of-copyright books and journals that are available from sources such as The Internet Archive and The Hathi Trust.

Refine your search by content type or other criteria including listing in the library catalogue.

Quick Facts (Biographical)

Biographical information

Consider these resources:

The Toronto Public Library (TPL) has ongoing subscriptions to many biographical resources as well other dictionaries and encyclopedias that are not available at Ryerson. Many of the resources are located at the Toronto Reference Library situated just north of Bloor Street on Yonge Street.

Quick Facts (Encyclopedias and Dictionaries)

Encyclopedias and dictionaries

remain useful sources of quick information.  In addition to free sources such as Wikipedia, consider some of our licensed electronic content from publishers such as Oxford University Press, as well as printed items. 

Try keyword searches in the main catalogue using subject or topical terms and either dictionaries, or, encyclopedias

Example keyword searches:

Quick Facts (Maps)

Maps and Atlases

Keyword search: africa maps

General World Atlases using Library of Congress subject heading search: atlases

The David Rumsey Map Collection contains historical maps including many of Africa or specific countries or regions of Africa

The Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library is digitizing many of the 200,000 maps in the collection. Search digital content under the Collections tab.

Old Books Published Before 1923

Many digitization initiatives are making books and magazines that are no longer protected by copyright available to new generations of researchers. Some creators are publishing their works in open access databases or under a Creative Commons license that permits free access to their research.

Many of these open access books and magazines are indexed in the RULA Search Everything tool.

For specific databases, consider:

The Internet Archive This venture includes books, movies, music and more.

Hathi Trust Digital Library Much of the content is available to all researchers. Some content is restricted to partner institutions and not available to the Ryerson community.

Google Books In addition to searching for works in the public domain no longer protected by copyright, this site may allow you ro preview small amounts of text from books that are still protected by copyright. Look for the complete works in the RULA catalogue or try the Toronto Public Library or our the ScholarsPortal Interlibrary Loan Service (Racer)