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A quick note on finding historical statistics on African colonies: Home

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1. Almost every African country was founded within the past fifty years. This means -- for historical research -- you must build up a synonym set of colonial names and national names for your country. This can be obvious -- Congo OR Zaire -- but you must accommodate foreign-language names where appropriate -- Cameroon OR Cameroun OR Kamerun -- and the complicated genealogy of very old colonies -- Nigeria OR "Niger Coast" OR "Oil Rivers" OR "Lagos Colony". Consider this one:

"l'Afrique occidentale francais" OR "Afrique occidentale francais" OR "French West Africa" OR Senegal* OR Mauritan* OR Sudan* OR Soudan* OR ....
Quiz question: What African countries were founded more than fifty years ago?

2. Colonial-era statistics are hard to locate. You should start with the Mitchell statistical compendium mentioned in class by Nick Okrent. Take care to check Mitchell's notes for the next step. Another GREAT bibliographic source is:

Africa : a guide to reference material / John McIlwaine. (both the first edition and the second revised and expanded edition)
Van Pelt Reference Stacks: DT3 .M35 1993 and ... 2007
and also see the Penn Library research guide on Health and Society in Africa, URL:

3. A stupid Franklin searching tip for colonial-era publications. You're looking for old books and periodicals, right? So when you've got a search result, change the sort order to "Pub date (old-new)."

4. Colonial-era statistics are often buried in handbooks and annual report-type publications. Depending on how and when we collected them, you will need to visit Van Pelt Reference, the Van Pelt LC AND Dewey stacks, or the University Museum Library, or request volumes from LIBRA. And remember: French books usually have their tables of contents at the end.

5. If Mitchell doesn't satisfy you, go deeper. You will want to examine:

An African survey: a study of problems arising in Africa South of the Sahara / Lord Hailey et al. 1939 (revised ed., 1957). Oxford Univ Press.
Van Pelt Reference Stacks: DT3 .H3 1957, Museum: 330.968 .H127, etc.
Most colonial-agency statistical publications do NOT provide social and economic data: they're interested in commerce, specifically exports. On the other hand, some British colonies produced their own "handbooks", which usually contain directory-like information but sometimes have statistical information or discussion of social and economic topics. Try a Franklin keyword expert search:
(handbook* OR statistics OR statistique) AND (your country synonyms)
Follow up on your searching, but be prepared for frustration.

6. Some quick, good hits. For French colonial Africa, take a look at these statistical abstracts:

Statistiques coloniales pour l'annee ... / France. Ministere des colonies
Online via HathiTrust (1839-1890, incomplete) and HathiTrust (1884-1908, incomplete).
Situation generale de l'annee / Gouvernement general de l'Afrique occidentale francaise
Online via Gallica (1907-1910)
Rapport d'ensemble annuel / Gouvernement general de l'Afrique occidentale francaise.
Online via Gallica (1909-1913)
Annuaire statistique de l'Afrique occidentale francaise Van Pelt Library Microtext Microfiche 1168 (for 1949-1954).
Annuaire statistique de l'Afrique equatoriale francaise
Van Pelt Library Microtext Microfiche 1167 (for 1936/1950-1951/1955).

British colonies issued annual statistical abstracts, called Blue Books. Our Blue Book holdings at present are strong but scattered among the Van Pelt stacks, LIBRA, and microfilm reels in Van Pelt Microtext. Don't bother trying this keyword expert search in Franklin:

"blue book*" AND (your country synonyms)
Instead, consult the research guide, Blue Books for Colonial British Africa in the Penn Libraries.

The Blue Books were considered so opaque that Parliament required Annual Reports to explain them. These Annual Reports are found in a couple different ways.

  • Annual reports, post-World War II.
    These are found by doing this keyword expert search in Franklin:
    "colonial reports" AND (your country synonyms)
  • Annual reports, post-World War I / pre-World War II.
    These are arranged by serial number within a very large set, Colonial reports - annual [LIBRA: 328.42 G797]. To find your colony's annual report, consult the handy table produced by Stanford University Library, URL:
  • Annual reports, World War I and earlier.
    Believe me, you have better things to do than look for these. They will be scattered throughout the library online, in print and on microfilm, buried in Parliamentary Papers series, reprinted in Confidential Foreign Office sets, and so on. If you really want to see them, try this Franklin keyword expert search:
    ("annual report" OR "colonial reports") AND (your country synonyms)
    Sort your search results chronologically to see individual volumes in their date order.

African colonial annual reports in the Colonial Reports-Annual series

Stanford University Libraries prepared a finding aid for the annual reports of African colonies appearing in the series, Colonial Reports-Annual, for 1920-1938, covering reports numbered 1072 through 1936. The Stanford finding aid appears to have been suppressed in 2015, but it lives on in the Internet Archive.

Use the Stanford table below with the HathiTrust digitized versions from University of Illinois, covering report nos. 1555-1895 (published in 1930-1937) or to retrieve specific printed reports by report number from LIBRA, covering nos. 1414-1936.

 
Colonial reports: Ashanti 1920-1925/26
nos.
1107
1142
1200
1252
1289
1339                            
 
Colonial reports: Basutoland 1920/21-1938
nos.
1085
1131
1176
1212
1244
1292
1336
1385
1428
1490
1527
1583
1628
1666
1723
1760
1804
1854
1898
 
 
Colonial reports: Bechuanaland 1920/21-38
nos.
1083
1133
1178
1210
1269
1317
1379
1424
1438
1491
1554
1579
1650 1687
1742
1792
1809
1871
1911
 
 
Colonial reports: Gambia 1920-1938
nos.
1120
1121 1160 1201 1249
1306
1347
1399
1444
1506
1543
1572
1616
1664
1715
1755
1799
1852
1893
 
 
Colonial reports: Gold Coast 1920-1938/39
nos.
1119
1154
1207
1255
1287
1333
1386
1418
1464
1504
1559
1602
1657
1684
1748
1785
1836
1882
1919
 
 
Colonial reports: Northern Territories of the Gold Coast 1919-1925/26
nos.
1082
1105
1126
1194
1229
1284
1328
                         
 
Colonial reports: Kenya Colony and Protectorate 1920-1923, 1926, 1928-38
nos. 1073 1089
1122
1153
1188
1227
1282 1321
1352
1425
1463
1510
1562
1606
1659
1688
1722
1771
1806
1858/
1920
 
Colonial reports: Mauritius 1920-1938
nos. 1115
1149
1179
1234
1281
1332
1373
1400
1465
1503
1549
1597
1627
1685
1731
1770
1828
1874
1905
 
 
Colonial reports: Nigeria 1920-1938
nos.
1098
1114
1155
1197
1245
1315
1335
1384
1435
1493
1528
1569
1625
1668
1710
1763
1842
1886
1904
 
 
Colonial reports: Northern Rhodesia 1924/25-1938
nos.        
1292
1363
1380
1410
1470
1516
1561
1592
1626
1669
1721
1769
1811
1868
1935
 
 
Colonial reports: Nyasaland 1919/20-1938
nos. 1075 1096
1156
1162
1204
1257
1296
1389
1445
1489
1545
1580
1658
1665
1739
1776
1824
1885
1902
 
 
Colonial reports: Seychelles 1920-1924, 1926-1937
nos. 1106
1146
1191
1236
1272
1329
1375
1420
1450
1484
1560
1609
1651
1700
1747
1772
1844
1890
   
 
Colonial reports: Sierra Leone 1920-1934, 1936-1938
nos.
1090
1150
1165
1219
1275
1320
1359
1417
1430
1476
1532
1578
1631
1678
1744
1829
1873
1916
   
 
Colonial reports: Somaliland 1920-1937
nos.
1100
1152
1193
1226
1271
1316
1355
1390
1451
1479
1524
1570
1613
1660
1707
1758
1815
1880
   
 
Colonial reports: Swaziland 1920/21, 1922-1938
nos.
1102
1138
1180
1211
1261
1307
1340
1404
1459
1501
1553
1594
1654
1694
1740
1793
1831
1884
1921
 
 
Colonial reports: Uganda Protectorate 1919/20-1938
nos.
1079
1112
1151
1182
1220
1280 1318
1377
1392
1439
1486
1556
1601
1645
1670
1729
1773
1810
1860
1903
 
Colonial reports: Zanzibar Protectorate 1920-1938
nos.
1091
1125
1163
1209
1254
1312
1346
1397
1434
1480 1529
1587
1623
1675
1706
1766
1807
1847
1892
 

Librarian & Coordinator of Social Sciences Collections

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Lauris Olson
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